The Delhi High Court Friday sought NIA's response on a plea by civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha seeking interim bail in the Bhima Koregaon violence case on the ground that due to his advanced age, he was vulnerable of catching virus in prison during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Justice Anup J Bhambhani, who conducted the hearing through video conferencing, issued notice to the NIA on the plea and asked the agency to file its response and listed the matter for further hearing on May 27.
Navlakha had surrendered before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on April 14 in pursuance to the Supreme Court's direction. He is presently lodged in Tihar jail.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the NIA, opposed the plea saying the grounds in the interim bail were rejected by the Supreme Court when Navlakh had sought extension of his protection from arrest on grounds of ongoing pandemic.
Navlakha, 67, said he is lodged in Tihar jail during a period where the entire nation is gripped with the threat of contracting the highly contagious and deadly COVID-19 virus.
The plea said given his advanced age, he is vulnerable to catching any infections/virus, especially in a crowded environment like prison.
The applicant is a senior citizen suffering from Colonic Polyposis, Chronic Gastritis and lactose intolerance, which can be controlled only through timely and regular medication and a very controlled diet.
"Furthermore, while he was in NIA's custody during interrogation, he was diagnosed by high blood pressure by the doctor at Safdarjung Hospital, which condition all the more increases the risk of his morbidity, it said.
On March 16, the apex court had dismissed his anticipatory bail and had granted three weeks time to surrender. On April 8, he again moved the Supreme Court seeking time to surrender citing the coronavirus pandemic. The Top court had asked him to surrender in one week.
While dismissing the anticipatory bail plea of Navlakha and civil rights activist Anand Teltumbde, the apex court had said their petitions cannot be maintained in view of the bar contained in 43D(4) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967.
Section 43D(4) of the UAPA bars grant of anticipatory bail to a person accused of having committed an offence punishable under this Act.
In August 2018, Navlakha was arrested by the Pune Police from his Delhi residence following the violence at Koregaon Bhima village in Pune district on January 1, 2018. The transit remand order was, however, set aside by the Delhi High Court.
According to Pune Police, inflammatory speeches and provocative statements made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017 had triggered caste violence at Koregaon Bhima the next day. The police alleged that the conclave was backed by Maoists.
Earlier this year, investigation in the case was transferred from Maharashtra Police to the NIA.
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