The Bombay High Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea filed by activist Gautam Navlakha, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case, seeking that he be placed under house arrest instead of judicial custody in the Taloja Jail as it lacked basic facilities. A bench of Justices S B Shukre and G A Sanap dismissed the plea and said that if Navlakha had any grievances pertaining to the lack of medical aid and basic facilities at Taloja jail the grounds he had cited while seeking house arrest he should inform the special NIA court of the same. The high court HC also directed the superintendent of the Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai, where Navlakha is lodged as an undertrial in the case, to provide him with medical kits and requisite medical aid.
“The present petition is dismissed. The petitioner will be at liberty to bring to the attention of the presiding officer of the special NIA court, the grievances in respect of difficulties faced by him in prison," the bench said. The said officer is directed to ensure the grievance is redressed within parameters of the law, it said.
Navlakha had approached the high court earlier this year through advocate Yug Chaudhry, seeking that he be shifted to house custody instead of judicial custody. The activist had said that he was a senior citizen and suffered from several health ailments.
The trial in the case was unlikely to begin soon, Chaudhry had said urging the court to impose whatever conditions it deemed fit, but to permit Navlakha to be shifted out of Taloja jail and placed under house custody. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had urged the high court not to grant Navlakha the relief of house arrest, arguing that it would result in difficulties, including the inability to prevent him from using social media while out of prison.
NIA counsel Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh had said that the grounds raised by advocate Chaudhry, for house arrest, were common grievances such as Navlakha suffering from hypertension, the prison being overcrowded etc. The probe agency had further said that it was common knowledge that India was a crowded nation and that the city of Mumbai was overcrowded. Therefore, Taloja jail being overcrowded was not an adequate reason to grant house arrest.
The Maharashtra government had also opposed Navlakha’s plea and informed the bench that the prison authorities will provide requisite medical care to him. A detailed order of the high court bench is awaited.