A bench of Justices K M Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy asked the NIA, which is the prosecuting agency and opposed Navlakha’s plea for house arrest, to spell out on Thursday the conditions that could be imposed on the social activist if his plea to come out of jail is allowed in order to ensure that he does not misuse his “measured freedom”.
Pressing for the activist’s plea, senior advocate Kapil Sibal told the bench that he was suffering from various ailments and his medical conditions were to be monitored that was not possible within the jail. Reading out the medical report filed by Jaslok hospital, he said that his blood pressure was to be checked twice in a day and also his sodium level.
Additional solicitor general S V Raju, appearing for the NIA, said that there was no need to allow him to come out of jail and he assured the court he will be provided all medical facilities inside jail and will be taken to any hospital of his choice if needed. The ASG said that as per the medical report there is nothing wrong with him and he would be provided mattress and cots as suggested by doctors and also home made food.
Countering Raju’s submission, Sibal said there was nothing wrong with Stan Swamy also but he died in custody.
As the court suggested the ASG consider plea of accused in light of his old age of 70 years, Raju stiffly opposed and said that it would set a wrong precedent and it would also be difficult to monitor his activities under house arrest. He said that Navlakha was in touch with terrorist outfit ISIS and Kashmiri extremists in addition to indulging in Maoist activies.
The bench thereafter asked about the evidence collected by the agency showing his links with terrorist and banned organisations and the agency then replied it found letter written to him by Sudarshan who is head of CPI(Maoist). Raju further said that Navlakha had gone to the US thrice on the invitation of a man who is being prosecuted for having links with ISIS.
Not satisfied with the evidence as pointed out by the ASG, the bench said, “This is the material… You are saying that one person had an ISIS link and he went thrice to the US to address conferences organised by that man but how is he linked with ISIS. Are you saying that this can be the basis of his conviction,” the bench said.
The court told Raju that being in the same age group, he was “ideally suited” to understand the medical problem faced by the accused and said, “He is a 70-year-old man. No one knows how long a person can live in this world. He is going towards the inevitable. We will put him under whatever restriction you suggest.”
Sibal said that Navlakha was a researcher and the Centre in 2005 had even appointed him as interlocutor to hold talks with Maoists and he secured release of people kidnapped by them. “I have been dealing with Maoists but I am not a Maoist,” he said.
The court thereafter deferred the hearing for Thursday and asked Raju to take instructions and brief the court on the conditions to be imposed on Navlakha if the bench agreed to allow his plea of house arrest.
The court in August also raised the issue of trial not moving and directed the trial court to decide framing of charges within three months as the accused were behind bars for more than three years. Taking note of the NIA’s plea that there are four accused who are still to be arrested in the case, the court had asked the agency to take steps to segregate the trial of 15 arrested accused from the rest by filing appropriate application before the trial court and also to declare the other four accused as proclaimed offenders.