Activist Gautam Navlakha released from prison, put under house arrest

The 70-year-old rights activist was released from prison after two years. A police team took him to a building in the Belapur-Agroli area of Navi Mumbai where he will be staying

November 23, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Gautam Navlakha India

On November 19, the Supreme Court of India released activist Gautam Navlakha from the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai on medical grounds. Rejecting the application filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the court ordered him to be placed under house arrest. 

The 70-year-old was arrested after the police accused him of being involved in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case. He is among the several activists being persecuted by the state in what is called the Bhima Koregaon or Elgar Parishad case. (For a detailed timeline of the Elgar Parishad case, read this article)

Following his release, the police team reportedly took him to a building in the Belapur-Agroli area of Navi Mumbai where he will be staying. 

His lawyers had informed the court that the activist suffers from colonic polyposis, chronic gastritis, and high blood pressure.

While ordering that Navlakha be placed under house arrest, the bench comprising Justice KM Joseph and Justice Hrishikesh Roy noted that the activist has been in custody since April 14, 2020, and prima facie there was no reason to reject his medical report.

However, the bench ordered some additional security measures to be put in place where Navlakha will be kept after the NIA raised security concerns saying that his residence is above a library of the Communist Party of India.

The NIA had moved the Supreme Court seeking vacation of its order for house arrest, saying the activist was accused in a case involving a threat to national security and integrity and thus does not deserve any extra leeway.

“From the investigation carried out, it is established that the petitioner delivered speeches at different forums and programs on many issues related to the Kashmiri separatist movement and Maoist movement and supported it,” the anti-terror agency said in the plea. 

Alleging that Navlakha’s medical report from the Jaslok hospital is “vitiated,” the agency said that proper treatment has been given to him whenever required and his condition is manageable within the premises of Taloja central jail.

On November 15, the top court had cleared the way for Navlakha’s release from prison by waiving the requirement of a solvency certificate for availing house arrest. 

(with inputs from NewsClick)