Supreme Court judge S Ravindra Bhat on Thursday recused from hearing a plea filed by civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha, challenging the September 13 judgement by Bombay High Court that refused to to quash the FIR lodged against him in the Bhima-Koregaon case.
Justice Bhat is the fifth judge to recuse himself from the case in the three days, according to the news agency PTI. On October 1, the three judges of a bench — Justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai — had reportedly recused themselves from hearing the case.
The plea will now come up for hearing on Friday, October 4. Navlakha’s plea came up for hearing Thursday before a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and S Ravindra Bhat. On September 30, the Chief Justice Ravindra Bhat had said, “List the matter before a bench in which I am not the party.”
On September 13, the HC had refused to quash the FIR lodged against Navlakha in the 2017 Bhima-Koregaon violence and for having alleged Maoist links, noting that there was prima facie substance in the case. The HC had said, “Considering the magnitude of the case, we feel a thorough investigation is required”.
The FIR was lodged against Navlakha and others by the Pune Police in January 2018 after the Elgar Parishad held on December 31, 2017 that had allegedly triggered violence at Koregaon Bhima in Pune district the next day. The police had also alleged that Navlakha and other accused in the case had Maoist links and were working towards overthrowing the government.
Navlakha and the other accused were booked under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code. Besides Navlakha, four others — Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj, are accused in the case.