After, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi recused himself from hearing civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha’s plea on September 30, another Supreme Court bench on October 3 recused itself from hearing Navlakha’s plea challenging the Bombay High Court’s order refusing to quash an FIR filed against him by the Pune police in the Bhima-Koregaon case.
Justice S Ravindra Bhat is the fifth apex court judge to recuse himself from hearing the matter when it came up for hearing before a three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Sharan and S Ravindra Bhat.
The top court referred the case to another bench, when Navalakha’s counsel informed the bench that three week protection given to him by the Bombay High Court was expiring on Friday.
Earlier, on October 1, a three-judge bench of Justices NV Ramana, BR Gavai and R Subhash Reddy had recused itself from hearing Navlakha’s plea.
The Bombay High Court’s division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Bharati Dangre had on September 13 rejected Navlakha’s plea seeking to quash the FIR filed against him, observing that there was prima facie material against Navlakha. Last year the Pune Police claimed that they have enough material to establish ‘deep involvement’ of the 65-year-old activist in the Bhima-Koregaon and Elgar Parishad cases, allegedly linking him to Maoist conspiracy.
The Maharashtra government also filed a caveat in the Supreme Court anticipating Navlakha’s appeal against the High Court’s order which the court cannot pass an order without hearing the other side.
Navlakha and nine activists including Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj were arrested by the Pune police from different parts of India, for their role in Pune’s December 31, 2017 Elgar Parishad gathering that served as a trigger for the caste riots in Bhima-Koregaon the next day, on January 1, 2018 where one person died in the violence.
These activists are accused of having alleged links with the banned CPI-Maoist and hatching a conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as to overthrow the elected government and booked under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).