'Give Gautam Navlakha Bail, Take NIA Off Bhima Koregaon Case': PUDR

PUDR's statement marks two years of the activist's surrender to the National Investigation Agency in the 2017 case.

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Marking two years of activist Gautam Navlakha's surrender to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Bhima Koregaon case, the People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) on Thursday, 14 April, said that Navlakha has been "punished" even as he awaits trial, and demanded his bail.

"Two years have passed since then, but the trial that Gautam and the other co-accused were hoping would start has yet to begin... The NIA has opposed Gautam’s petitions for bail, medical relief etc vehemently at every juncture citing prima facie guilt, and the jail authorities have ensured that Gautam is “punished” even while guilt still has to be proved."

The rights body also demanded the removal of the NIA from the case.


"It is ironical that the Taloja Jail authorities who are mandated otherwise to protect inmates awaiting trial, have clearly been working in tandem with the NIA, to ‘punish’ Gautam even before guilt is proven and judgement pronounced," it said in a statement.

The immediate bail of all those accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, a speedy and fair trial in the case, the repeal of UAPA from the charges were listed as the other demands of the PUDR.

Navakha is one of sixteen accused in a case related to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad meet in Pune in 2017. He been imprisoned in Taloja Central Jail, Navi Mumbai since 25 May 2020.

For more than six months now, since 12 October 2021, the nearly 70 years old Navlakha, an undertrial suffering from multiple health problems, has been in solitary confinement in the high security area of Taloja Jail, a space meant to segregate those guilty of heinous crimes.


'Process Itself the Punishment': A Day Before His Surrender in 2020, Navlakha Had Written on UAPA

The PUDR press statement released on 14 April noted that the day before the human rights activist had surrendered before the NIA, he had written about the complexities of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, under which he has been charged:

"Draconian provisions of the UAPA are not accompanied by stricter procedures regarding evidence, especially electronic, considering the stringent punishment provided for under the Act; the procedures, which otherwise provide tighter rules regarding evidence, are instead made elastic. Under this double whammy, jail becomes the norm, and bail an exception. In this Kafkaesque domain, process itself becomes punishment. My hope rests on a speedy and fair trial for myself and all my fellow co-accused."

Recently, Taloja jail authorities had refused to hand over a book by renowned humorist PG Wodehouse to Navlakha, calling the book a "security risk".

The activist is a member of People's Union for Democratic Rights and had served as an editorial consultant at the Economic and Political Weekly.

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