The Delhi High Court has pointed out irregularities in the way certain human rights activists and journalists have been ‘arrested’ by the Maharashtra Police. What’s happening? In at least this one case, it is evident that something strange and sinister has been set in motion.
With the Maharashtra police unable to explain the specific offence for detaining journalist and social activist Gautam Navlakha, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday ordered that he should not be taken away from the capital till it heard the case on Wednesday.
The High Court was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of Mr. Navlakha by his advocate Warisha Farasat after his arrest by the Maharashtra police.
Mr. Navlakha was arrested from a residence in South Delhi’s Nehru Enclave by a Maharashtra Police team from Pune on Tuesday afternoon. He was produced before a local court in Saket that allowed the police to take him and produce him before a local court in Pune.
The Bench of Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice Vinod Goel said the documents submitted by the Maharashtra police while seeking the transit remand did not clearly specify why Mr. Navlakha was detained.
When Bench asked the Maharasthra police official, who was present in the courtroom, “what is the specific allegation” against Mr Navlakha, the official could not give any clear answer.
Not satisfied with the response, the Bench said it was “not possible to make out from the document (submitted by the Maharashtra police) what precisely was the case against the petitioner (Mr Navlakha)”.
As a result, the High Court stayed the local court order granting permission to the Maharashtra police to take him to Pune. During the brief hearing, advocate Nithya Ramakrishnan, appearing for the activist, said he was not present at the event in question (Elgar Parishad in Pune) and the search at his residence here had not yielded objectionable material.
She also contended that the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code regarding search and arrest were not followed as the warrants were in Marathi, which Mr. Navlakha could not understand, and the grounds for the action were not given in writing. The petition was first mentioned before a Bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V.K. Rao by Mr. Navlakha’s lawyers for urgent listing. When urgent listing was allowed, the lawyers approached the Bench of Justices Muralidhar and Goel, having the roster for habeas corpus cases, which issued an interim order that the petitioner be not taken out of the State.
The Bench also questioned how the Maharashtra police was able to receive a transit remand order from the local court within half an hour of Mr. Navlakha’s arrest on Tuesday afternoon.
Questioning why witnesses were brought from Pune to authenticate the arrest, the court said that under the law, witnesses were supposed to be local persons from the area where an individual was being arrested.
The Bench said Mr. Navlakha would remain at his residence here under police guard.
The High Court will take up Mr. Navlakha’s plea as the first case on Wednesday