New Delhi, Apr 8: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked civil rights activists Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde, accused in Bhima Koregaon violence, to surrender before the authorities within a week and categorically stated that the time will not be extended any further.
The directions from the court came after hearing a petition from the activist seeking more time to surrender and go to jail on the grounds of health and safety arising from the COVID outbreak. Going to jail during the pandemic would be virtually giving them a death sentence, the petition said. Counsel said that both the activists were over 65 years and suffered from heart ailments, making them more vulnerable to the deadly virus. However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, opposed the plea, saying that it was just a contention made to buy time. He said that jail was the safest place for them.
He further said the activists were facing serious charges. A two-judge Bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra, rejected the petition and said that the petitioners should have surrendered by now even as it was learnt that the courts were functioning in Mumbai despite lockdown. Navlakha, Teltumbde and several other activists have been booked by the Pune Police for their alleged Maoist links and several other charges following the violence at Koregaon Bhima village in Pune district on January 1, 2018. The accused have denied the allegations. The activist had challenged the February 14 order of the Bombay High Court which deny anticipatory bail to them. On March 16, the top court had declined anticipatory bail plea by activists Teltumbde and Navalakha. The Court stated that Section 43D(4) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, clearly put a bar for pre-arrest bail.
The court, however, had then granted them three weeks to surrender before the National Investigation Agency, entrusted to probe the matter. (UNI)