Bombay HC dismisses Gautam Navlakha’s plea seeking house arrest

Court directs Superintendent of Taloja Central Jail to ensure medical facilities are provided to the human rights defender and senior journalist

gautam navlakha

Almost three weeks after reserving the order, the Bombay High Court has dismissed the plea filed by Gautam Navlakha last year, requesting that he be kept under house arrest pending trial in the Bhima Koregaon violence case. 

The division bench comprising of Justices Sunil B Shukre and Govinda A Sanap directed the Superintendent of Taloja central prison to ensure medical facilities are provided to the petitioner.

As reported by The Indian Express, the court said, “The petitioner would be at liberty to bring to the attention of the presiding officer of special NIA court the grievances in respect of difficulties faced by him and the said officer directed to ensure grievance redressed within parameters of law.”

On April 5, 2022, a Bombay High Court Bench of Justices SB Shukre and GA Sanap had concluded the hearing and reserved the verdict wherein he had sought to be transferred out of Taloja Central Prison, citing a lump in his chest, and great hardship owing to the alleged denial of basic medical and other necessities in jail.

During the hearing on April 4, the Bench had expressed strong disapproval at the conduct of the respondents as:

 a) the State failed to file any affidavit;

b) the prison authorities failed to address any concerns raised by the petitioner in their reply;  

c) the counsel for the prison authorities was absent from the Court.

Justice Sanap had also made observations at the lack of co-ordination between the State and Central agencies and therefore, directed them to ensure co-ordination.

Arguments by the Petitioner:

  1. House arrest can be granted even if bail was rejected;

  2. There was no reason for the fear of evidence tampering as all the evidence is electronic;

  3. While pleading for minimum guards, it was submitted that there is no fear of Gautam Navlakha absconding;

  4. The petitioner offered to bear part of the expenses that may be incurred from house arrest arrangement;

  5. With respect to floodgate opening if house arrest was granted to the petitioner, the counsel stated “please do not let the fear of dragons come in the way of this plea.”

Arguments by the Respondent:

  1. The petitioner should have approached the Special Court before approaching the High Court;

  2. The house arrest for medical reasons was not necessary as the Petitioner could be treated at JJ hospital by the best doctors;

  3. The petitioner was indirectly applying for bail through house arrest as his previous attempts at receiving bail have been futile;

  4. 1,000 other jail inmates who are suffering from ailments could also raise similar request for similar reasons.

However, the Court reprimanded the prison authorities for denying the petitioner basic items such as stool, spectacles, slippers or even a book by ‘P.G. Wodehouse’ for that matter. Justice SB Shukre had reportedly asked, “But Wodehouse was an inspiration for PL Deshpande, the famous humourist and writer of Maharashtra. How can that be a security threat? Is humour banished from jail?”

When the counsel for respondent tried to defend the prison authorities saying that the petitioner already had 2,800 books available at his disposal in the jail, the Court reportedly replied, “That is quite less. Even a secondary school would have more books. If there aren’t enough of books, something can be done by the bar or by the court. Because an access to books is very important. It is an important step towards reformation of jail inmates.”

The National Investigation Agency has reportedly submitted a list of seventeen draft (proposed) charges against the 15 accused, including the serious charge of waging a war against the country, which is punishable with death or imprisonment for life (section 121 of the Indian Penal Code) before the court. The 15 accused are- Varavara Rao, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Hany Babu, Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap and Sagar Gorkhe.

The NIA charges claim that the accused persons are members of a banned organisation, CPI (Maoists), whose main objective is to establish a Janta Sarkar i.e., people’s Government via a revolution supported by a commitment to protracted armed struggle to undermine and to seize power from the State.


Bhima Koregaon: Gautam Navlakha moves Bombay HC for house arrest citing lump in chest

Bhima Koregaon: Bombay HC castigates prison authorities while hearing Gautam Navlakha’s house arrest plea

Bhima Koregaon case: Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navalakha, Vernon Gonsalves seek interim bail




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