SC Refuses to Recall Navlakha's House Arrest Order: What Happened in Court?

The Supreme Court has directed that the house arrest order be complied with within the next 24 hours.

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The Supreme Court on Friday, 18 November, dismissed the National Investigation Agency's (NIA) plea seeking a recall of activist Gautam Navlakha's house arrest order.

The top court had on 10 November passed an interim order allowing the ailing 72-year-old to be shifted to house arrest from Taloja Central jail, where he is lodged in connection with the Elgar Parishad case.

According to this, Navlakha was meant to be shifted to house arrest within the next 48 hours (starting 10 November.) However, that got delayed because of the NIA plea.

So what now? The Supreme Court in its 18 November order has directed that Navlakha be shifted to house arrest from Taloja Central jail within the next 24 hours.

A bench of Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy, have also imposed certain conditions in addition to the ones already mentioned in its earlier house arrest order.

But wait, what additional conditions? The additional conditions include the sealing of the kitchen door leading to the exit point and the locking of the grills of the hall. The bench noted that Navlakha has complied with the condition of installing CCTV cameras at both exit points.

Why was the NIA objecting to his house arrest? One of NIA's objections to the 70-year-old ailing activist's house arrest was that the place he would be staying in was owned by the Communist Party of India.

However, the top court pulled up the central agency for these apprehensions.

"Communist Party is a recognised party of India. What is the issue," Justice Joseph asked Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta who appeared for the NIA.

"If it does not shock you then what can I say," the SG said.

"No it does not shock us," the bench responded.


Why Had Navlakha asked for 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.

When and why 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.

What Were the Initial House Arrest Conditions?

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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