Humanity most important: Bombay HC on jailed activist Gautam Navlakha’s ‘stolen’ specs

Saying that humanity is “most important”, Bombay High Court on Tuesday referred to the theft of jailed activist Gautam Navlakha’s spectacles, and called for a “workshop” to sensitize prison officials



Saying that humanity is "most important", the Bombay High Court on Tuesday referred to the theft of jailed activist Gautam Navlakha's spectacles, and called for a "workshop" to sensitize prison officials.

Navlakha is an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case. Without his spectacles he was almost blind but authorities at Taloja jail near here were not allowing him to get a new pair, his family had alleged.

The high court's observation came in the wake of a struggle by Stan Swamy, another accused in the case, to get a sipper and straw in jail.

A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and M S Karnik said it had learnt about how Navlakha's spectacles were stolen and the prison authorities refused to accept the new spectacles sent by his family through courier.

"Humanity is most important. Everything else will follow. Today, we learnt about Navlakha's spectacles. This is the high time to conduct a workshop for even jail authorities," Justice Shinde said.

"Can all these small items be denied? These are all humane considerations," he added.

Navlakha's family members on Monday claimed that his spectacles were stolen on November 27.

They claimed that Navlakha is "almost blind" without the spectacles and yet, when they sent a pair of new spectacles to him by post earlier this month, the prison authorities refused to accept it and sent it back.

"Presently Gautam Navlakha is in acute distress, is unable to see things around him and consequently his blood pressure has shot up," read a statement, circulated on Monday evening by Navlakha's lawyers, signed by his wife Sahba Husain.

Earlier, the lawyers of Stan Swamy (83) had moved the special NIA court seeking that their client be returned the sipper and straw allegedly seized by the NIA at the time of arrest.

His hands shake while drinking water because of Parkinson's disease, they said. Swamy was finally provided the two items earlier this month by the prison authorities.

The high court on Tuesday was hearing petitions filed by activists Ramesh Gaichor and Sagar Gorkhe, challenging their arrest by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case.

Senior counsel Mihir Desai, appearing for Gaichor and Gorkhe, alleged the duo were arrested by the NIA only because they refused to record statements before a magistrate against the other accused.

The petitions also said the trial should be held before the special NIA court in Pune, and not in Mumbai.

"The offence is alleged to have occurred in Pune. The case was initially held before a court in Pune. However, after the NIA took over the probe, it was transferred to the special NIA court in Mumbai even when there is a special NIA court in Pune," Desai said.

NIA's advocate Sandesh Patil sought time, following which the HC posted the matter for hearing on December 21.

Navlakha had surrendered before the NIA, which is probing the nearly three- year-old case, on April 14, 2020.

The case pertains to the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Maharashtra's Pune district on December 31, 2017, which, the police alleged, was funded by Maoists.

The speeches made by some activists at the conclave triggered violence near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial on outskirts of Pune city the next day, according to the police charge sheet. Now the NIA is probing the case.

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