Jail Denies Wodehouse Book to Navlakha Citing 'Security', HC Labels it 'Comical'

Navlakha's lawyer Yug Chaudhry said that even basic facilities were not being provided to his client.

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The Bombay High Court on Monday, 4 April, labelled as "comical" the refusal by Taloja jail authorities to hand over a book by noted humourist PG Wodehouse to Elgar Parishad-accused Gautam Navlakha, citing a "security risk".

A division bench comprising Justices SB Shukre and GA Sanap was hearing a petition filed by Navlakha to be shifted from the Taloja jail to judicial custody, or house arrest, due to his ailing condition and advanced age.

Drawing the court's attention to the poor condition of the prison, Navlakha's lawyer Yug Chaudhry said that even basic facilities were not being provided to his client.

"Books are being refused. A book by PG Wodehouse, that is considered a humour book, was sent by his family and the jail authorities refused to hand it to him saying it was a 'security risk' twice," Chaudhry was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.


In response to Chaudhry's statements, Justice Shukre said, "Is this true? Wodehouse is considered as a security threat? This is really comical. Wodehouse was a source of inspiration for Marathi writer and humourist L Deshpande".

'Basic Needs Should be Met': Court

The bench further said that this showed the attitude of the jail authorities.

"It is the job of the NIA, as the prosecuting agency, to ensure that the arrested person's life is made comfortable in jail. At least basic needs should be met," Justice Shukre added.

The court also criticised the Maharashtra government for the absence of legal representation from their side during the hearing.

"The petition makes specific allegations against the jail authorities and the poor condition of jail. These conditions show complete neglect and justifies his (Navlakha's) demand for house arrest but still the state government is not bothered," the court remarked.

Additional public prosecutor Sangeeta Shinde later appeared in the court on behalf of the Maharashtra government and apologised for the delay. She also requested the bench to not pass any order in the case, PTI reported.

Appealing to the court on behalf of his client, Chaudhry said that no benefit was accruing by keeping 70-year-old Navlakha in jail.

"The charges are yet to be framed in the case. Even if the trial begins it would take years for it to conclude. Why should he (Navlakha) be kept in jail until then with no basic facilities?" he asked.

'Navlakha Doesn't Want Same Fate as Fr Swamy'

Chaudhry also said that Navlakha didn't want to suffer the same fate as Father Stan Swamy, another accused in the Elgar Parishad case who had died in custody in July last year.

"Another accused in the case Varavara Rao fortunately got medical bail from the HC or else he too would have met the same fate as Swamy. Navlakha does not want to suffer the same fate as Swamy. He wants to live till he clears his name from this case," Chaudhry argued.

Navlakha is one of the 15 activists, academics, and lawyers who were accused of having Naxal links and giving inflammatory speeches at Pune’s Elgar Parishad meet, which allegedly instigated the violence in Bhima Koregaon on 1 January 2018. He was arrested by the Pune police in August later that year.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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