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India

Bombay High Court finds 'material', junks Gautam Navlakha's plea for relief

Accused in ‘Urban Naxal’ case gets three weeks to move Supreme Court

Delhi resident Gautam Navlakha failed to get relief on Friday in the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon violence, also known as the 'Urban Naxal' case, after the Bombay High dismissed his petition to junk a first information report registered against him.

A bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre found merit in the police claim that there was "prima facie substance" in the allegations against the activist. The police have told the court that Navlakha has links with Maoists as well as the Hizbul Mujahideen and Kashmiri separatists.

"On the basis of material placed before us, we are of the considered opinion that this is not the case where registration and investigation of the crime is without any basis or a case of complete absence of material against petitioner," said the bench.

‘RED, HIZBUL LINKS’

The judges went on to say, "Considering the nature and magnitude of conspiracy, investigation agency is required to be given time to unearth the evidence against Gautam Navlakha given that the scope of probe is not restricted to the Bhima-Koregaon incident, but activities leading to the incident and subsequent activities as well are the subject matter of investigation." The court gave Navlakha three weeks to approach the Supreme Court and he won't be arrested until then.

The names of Navlakha and few other activists cropped up after the Pune cops set out to probe the violence at Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, 2018 that had left one dead and scores injured. It was allegedly triggered by a conclave in Pune the previous day – called the Elgar Parishad. The police said the Parishad was funded by Maoists.

According to the Pune police, Navlakha was in touch with the banned Hizbul Mujahideen and Kashmiri separatists. It had said that Navlakha was associated with the urban activities of the CPI (Maoist) and was helping to strengthen its urban cadre.

Navlakha's lawyer Yug Chaudhary said the case has been filed not with "evidence, but with prejudice to cause fear among activists". Chaudhary said that the serious charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act cannot be pressed against Navlakha based on "evidence produced by the police such as letters recovered from his laptop and those of the co-accused".

Navlakha was first arrested on August 28 last year. He had moved the Delhi High Court challenging the manner of his arrest and the order of a magistrate court to take him from Delhi and Pune. The HC set aside the order, prompting the Maharashtra government to oppose the decision in the Supreme Court. While the SC stayed the arrest of Navlakha and four activists, it directed the Bombay HC to expeditiously deal with his plea for quashing of the FIR against him.

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