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Bhima Koregaon: SC Allows House Arrest for Gautam Navlakha, Imposes Conditions

The 73-year-old had asked to be shifted to house arrest from jail due to his ailing health.

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The Supreme Court on Thursday, 10 November, allowed activist Gautam Navlakha, accused in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case, to be shifted to house arrest from jail for a month.

What now? The apex court order granting relief to the 73-year-old due to his ailing health, is an interim one and will be reviewed again after a month.

He will be moved to a house in Bombay within 48 hours, where he will be staying with his partner Sabha Hussain.

The house will be screened prior to that. The house arrest will also be subject to certain conditions, the top court said.

The police has been permitted to search and inspect the residence, if needed in its evaluation, to ensure that Navlakha does not misuse the house arrest.

Notably, the court, according to LiveLaw said:

"We make it clear that such searches should not be abused...should not be a ruse to harass the petitioner."

But why house arrest? Navlakha had said that he was suffering from skin allergies, dental issues and wanted to undergo a colonoscopy for suspected cancer.

He had said that there were not enough facilities in prison to be able to adequately deal with his ailing health.

How did this reach the Supreme Court? Navlakha had approached the top court after the Bombay High Court had rejected his petition seeking house arrest on 26 April.

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Noting this the top court, in its order, remarked:

"We are a little mystified as to why High Court said petitioner does fulfill criteria of age. He's aged 70 years. The state of health is also far from perfect, there are multiple health issues..."

Why is the SC order significant? Over the course of the hearing, the Supreme Court refused to bar the order from acting as precedent, which means this has the potential to establish a precedent for future cases.

According to LiveLaw, here's how the courtroom exchange transpired:

Additional Solicitor General of India: 'Not to be treated as precedent?'

Bench: We will not say that.

When was he arrested? Navlakha is one of the 16 accused in a case related to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad meet in Pune in 2017.

He was arrested in August 2018, but was initially placed under house arrest. Following a 2020 Supreme Court order, he was moved to Taloja Central Jail.

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What are the Conditions of House Arrest?

The apex court said:

1) His house will be under surveillance (Police personnel to be posted outside the house) and CCTV cameras will be installed outside the rooms and at entry and exit points of the residence

(The expenses for surveillance, approximately Rs. 2.4 lakhs, is to be borne by Navlakha)

2) No permission to leave the house (except for walks in the company of Police personnel; he will not engage with any person during such walks)

3) No access to internet, laptop or any communication device

4) Phone calls will be permitted once a day for 10 minutes in Police presence, on a mobile phone provided by the Police personnel

5) Otherwise he will not use any other phone including that of the companion. Companion's mobile shall not have internet, a basic phone for making calls and SMS- she shall not delete calls or SMS

6) NIA can conduct surveillance into calls made by him and the companion

7) He cannot leave Bombay

8) Maximum two family members can visit him once a week, for three hours (list of family members to be provided to NIA within 3 days

9) No electronic gadgets will be permitted even when such visitors are allowed

10) He will be permitted to use cable TV and read newspaper

11) No contact with any witnesses in the case

12) Permitted to meet lawyer as per Jail Manual rules (must forward names of lawyers in 3 days to the NIA)

13) Furnish local surety

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