Released from jail, Navlakha reaches Navi Mumbai ‘home’

ACTIVIST-JOURNALIST Gautam Navlakha, a defendant in the Elgaar Parishad case, was released from Taloja Central Jail on Saturday night and placed under “house arrest” following the November 10 Supreme Court order.

Navlakha, who was arrested after his surrender on April 14, 2020, has since been behind bars. He has been moved to a community hall in a building in Navi Mumbai, which will be his “home” for the next month for him and his partner, Sahba Husain. The Supreme Court had ordered that he be placed under house arrest for an interim period which will be reviewed and a decision on his prosecution will be made after one month.

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) request to overturn the Nov. 10 order and ordered the agency to comply within 24 hours, clearing the way for the release. of Navlakha.

Following this, the NIA submitted a compliance report to the Mumbai Special Court on Saturday through Special Prosecutor Shrikant Sonkawade. The report says an open grill in the premises where Navlakha is staying will be locked and a second exit from the kitchen on the ground floor will be permanently locked during his stay. In accordance with the orders of the SC, CCTV cameras have been installed at the entry and exit points of the premises. After the compliance report was registered by the Mumbai court, a release order was issued.

“Defendant number 11 Gautam Navlakha will be placed under house arrest at the mentioned address… Police Commissioner, Navi Mumbai, will provide necessary escort for the movement of the defendant and house arrest for security and the security of the accused,” Special Judge Rajesh Katariya said in his order on Saturday.

Among the conditions set for Navlakha’s house arrest are that he would pay for police escorts guarding the premises. Navlakha had paid a sight draft of Rs 2.4 lakh to Navi Mumbai Police for the same. He was also responsible for installing CCTV cameras.

While her partner can use a basic mobile phone with call and text functionality, he cannot have an internet connection. It was argued that there is also no objection to the monitoring of phone calls made on his phone. Navlakha was only allowed to use a phone provided to him by police personnel for 10 minutes a day in their presence. Both Husain and Navlakha have been banned from using internet and communication devices and electronic gadgets like computer, laptop, iPad.

He was allowed to meet two members of his family once a week for three hours. He can also meet with a lawyer. Navlakha will also be allowed to walk outside in the company of police personnel, if necessary, without speaking to anyone. Navlakha and her partner can also use a TV, but not a smart TV, which is internet-based. He will also have access to the logs.

Officers may conduct searches or inspections of premises.

“We clarify that this should not be taken to mean that such searches will be carried out, which will constitute abuse and which is not justified by the obvious need to carry out such searches. It should not be used to harass the petitioner,” said the SC order dated November 10.

Navlakha and 15 others were arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case from 2018 to 2020. Besides Navlakha, Varavara Rao and Sudha Bharadwaj are out on bail. Academic Anand Teltumbde was released on bail this week by the Bombay High Court, but is suspended for two weeks for the NIA to appeal to the SC.

About Anne Wurtsbach

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