Bhima Koregaon: SC sets aside Delhi HC order on Navlakha, says it has no jurisdiction

The Supreme Court Monday sets aside the Delhi High Court order asking the NIA to produce the judicial records with regard to transfer of civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha from Delhi to Mumbai in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case saying it is the courts at Bombay alone having the jurisdiction, which can entertain the application .

The top court said Navlakha by way of misconceived venture , filed an application for interim bail directly before the Delhi High Court and the entire exercise taken by the High Court was totally uncalled for as the spirit of apex court’s April 8, 2020 order was apparent.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha said that the High Court of Delhi should not have entertained the application at the threshold, the observations made are hereby ordered to be expunged .

Since the respondent (Gautam Navlakha) has been moved to Bombay, he is at liberty to apply before the competent court in Bombay. Thus, we set aside the impugned order, including the observations and the proceedings which were initiated. It is the courts at Bombay alone having the jurisdiction, which can entertain the application. Thus, the appeal is allowed, the bench said in its order.

The top court said that a reading of its April 8 order, passed on a plea of Navlakha seeking extension of time to surrender in the case, makes it clear that the accused was given liberty to apply for any relief before the jurisdictional court as the courts at Bombay were functioning.

Thus, in view of the aforesaid clear order passed by this Court and the time of one week granted by this Court, it was the jurisdiction of the Bombay Court alone to entertain any application. By way of misconceived venture, an application was filed directly before the High Court of Delhi, the bench said.

The bench said that in case any modification of the order dated April 8, 2020 was required, it was incumbent upon the respondent (Navlakha) to apply to this (apex court) court, which he did not do.

“Thus, the entire exercise taken by the High Court of Delhi was totally uncalled for as the spirit of our order is apparent. The High Court of Delhi should not have entertained the application at the threshold, the observations made are hereby ordered to be expunged, it added.

The apex court had earlier stayed the May 27 order of the Delhi High Court by which the NIA was pulled up for acting in haste in taking away Navlakha from Tihar Jail to Mumbai even when his interim bail plea was pending here.

During the hearing on Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for NIA, said that at the time when Navlakha surrendered in pursuance to top court order, Delhi was under lockdown.

He added that Navlakha was produced before the trial judge in Mumbai based on the production warrant and the Delhi High Court was duly informed about it during the hearing.

Mehta pointed out that after the lockdown was lifted, Navlkaha was taken to Mumbai and the observations made by the Delhi High Court were totally uncalled for.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Navlakha said, What the high court has done? It has neither granted any bail nor any relief. High Court simply asked the concerned officer to file an affidavit .

However, the bench said that Delhi High Court should not have entertained the matter. How any high court could have interfered in the matter like this? the bench told Sibal, adding, You could have come to us (Supreme Court) or go to the concerned NIA court in Mumbai .

The top court on June 19, had expressed unhappiness and questioned the Delhi High Court’s decision to entertain the bail plea of Navlakha, when it had already dismissed his petition for similar relief and asked him to surrender within a specific date.

The top court on June 2 had stayed the proceedings before the Delhi High Court till further orders and issued notice to Navlakha on NIA’s appeal.

Justice Anup J Bhambani of the Delhi High Court on May 27 had pulled up the NIA for acting in unseemly haste in taking away Navlakha, from the national capital to Mumbai even when his interim bail plea was pending here.

It said there was an evident haste shown by the NIA in moving pleas across Mumbai and Delhi over weekends and Gazetted holidays (Eid) and obtaining orders by e-mail, and whisking away Navlakha to Mumbai, which has rendered these proceedings infructuous.

Navlakha, who had surrendered before the NIA on April 14 in pursuance to the apex court’s direction and was lodged in Tihar jail, was taken to Mumbai by train on May 26.

The top court on April 8 had directed Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde to surrender to jail authorities within a week in the Bhima Koregaon violence case saying the time will not be extended now as the courts are functioning in Bombay, Maharashtra.

The apex court on March 16 had rejected anticipatory bail pleas of the activists, observing that it cannot be said no prima facie case is made out.

Navlakha, Teltumbde and several other activists have been booked by the Pune Police for their alleged Maoist links and several other charges following the violence at Koregaon Bhima village in Pune district on January 1, 2018. All the accused have denied the allegations.

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.

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