SC Rejects Navlakha, Teltumbde Anticipatory Bail Plea, Gives 3 Weeks to Surrender

Left; Anand Teltumbde and right; Gautam Navlakha | Image courtesy: Newsclick

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the anticipatory bail plea moved by civil rights activists Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde in the Bhima Koregaon case. Both the activists have been booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for alleged Maoist links following the violence at Bhima Koregaon village in Pune district on January 1, 2018.

Although the Pune Police was investigating the case, the Centre in February transferred it from the Maharashtra government to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

According a report in LiveLaw, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah dismissed the special leave petitions filed by Navlakha and Teltumbde that challenged the Bombay High Court ruling on February 15, 2020, denying them anticipatory bail on the “finding that a prima facie case was made out against them based on materials on record.”

On March 6, the apex court had extended protection from arrest granted to the two activists till March 16.

The Bombay HC, while denying the anticipatory bail to Navlakha and Teltumbde from February 14, had extended the interim protection from arrest for a period of four weeks to enable them to approach the apex court.

Teltumbde and Navlakha had approached the high court seeking pre-arrest bail in November last year after a sessions court in Pune rejected their pleas.

In December last year, the high court had granted them interim protection from arrest pending disposal of their anticipatory bail pleas.

On Monday, dismissing the anticipatory bail pleas, the SC bench held that the petitions were not maintainable, given the material collected by the investigation agency, as per the LiveLaw report.

Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the two senior advocates representing Navlakha and Teltumbde, told the court that “the incriminatory letters projected by the prosecution were recovered from another person,” adding that the two were “peace activists” who were engaged in criticism of the establishment through intellectual and academic methods, the report said.

Solictor General Tushar Mehta, who is representing the NIA, told the apex court that “custodial interrogation” of the two accused activists was “highly necessary”, as per LiveLaw. In November 2018, the Pune Police had filed the first chargesheet against six persons arrested in June 2018.

In February 2019, it filed a supplementary chargesheet against Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves.

However, Navlakha and Teltumbde were not named in the chargesheet, the LiveLaw report says.

Navlakha is a civil and human rights activist and columnist, while Teltumbde is an anti-caste discrimination crusader, writer, and civil rights activist, who teaches management at the Goa Institute of Management.

Both Navlakha and Teltumbde have been booked under UAPA along with nine other rights activists, including Sudha Bharadwaj, poet Varavara Rao, Rona Wilson, among others.

The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the 'Elgar Parishad' conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which Pune Police claimed, triggered violence near the Koregaon Bhima war memorial located on the city's outskirts the next day. The police also claimed that the conclave was backed by Maoists and alleged that all the 11 activists had Maoist links.

All the activists, nine of whom are in jail, have stoutly denied the charges pressed against them by the Pune Police.