Bhima Koregaon Case:Ambedkar’s Kin Goes To Jail;Navlakha Also Surrenders

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Mumbai/New Delhi- Academician Anand Teltumbde, grand son-in-law of B R Ambedkar, and civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha were on Tuesday placed under arrest by the National Investigation Agency in connection with Bhima Koregaon case after both of them surrendered.

Both had to surrender after the Supreme Court had rejected their plea seeking more time to appear before the NIA because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teltumbde walked into the South Mumbai office of the NIA on a day when the 129th birth anniversary of Ambedkar, architect of country”s Constitution, was being celebrated. He and Navlakha were wanted by the NIA in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case popularly known as ”Bhima Koregaon” case. Navlakha surrendered in the agency”s headquarters in the national capital.

Teltumbde was later produced before a special NIA court in Mumbai which remanded him in NIA custody till April 18 even as the agency sought 10-day custody.

Navlakha will be produced before a special court in Delhi where the agency will seek his transit remand to take him to Mumbai, officials said.

Earlier, the agency had planned to produce Navlakha through video conferencing before the Mumbai special court but special NIA judge A T Wankhede said since the accused surrendered in Delhi he would have to be produced before a court in the national capital.

The agency in its remand application filed through special public prosecutor Prakash Shetty has alleged Teltumbde had links with the Communist Party of India (Maoist), a banned terrorist organisation.

In its application, the agency also sought permission to handcuff him to avoid physical contact with the accused amid the COVID-19 outbreak. However, no such request was made before the court.

The NIA in its application said Teltumbde was the convenor of the Elgar Parishad programme held on December 31, 2017 at Pune.

It is the prosecution”s case that during that programme, inflammatory speeches were made which triggered caste-based violence at Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 2018 in Pune.

“During preliminary investigations it was revealed that accused Anand Teltumbde was recipient of funds from the central committee of Communist Party of India (Maoist), a banned terrorist organisation,” the agency alleged in its remand application.

Teltumbde has links with the banned organisation, the agency alleged, claiming the call data records of the academician has revealed that he was in contact with the other accused in the case.

“It is also revealed that there is a conspiracy hatched by the accused persons to promote enmity between caste groups. This conspiracy led to violence resulting in loss of life and state wide agitation,” the application alleged.

Teltumbde, Navlakha and nine other civil liberties activists have been booked under the stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for having alleged Maoist links and for conspiring to overthrow the government.

Teltumbde and Navlakha, who were initially granted interim protection from arrest, were on March 16 directed by the Supreme Court to surrender within a period of three weeks following dismissal of their pre-arrest bail pleas.

On April 8, the apex court extended the time period by one week rejecting Navlakha”s plea seeking extension of time on the ground that going to jail during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is “virtually a death sentence”.

“Though we expected that the accused would surrender, honouring the order of this court, they have not done so. We are told that in Mumbai, the courts are functioning. It would have been appropriate for the accused to surrender as the courts are open and not totally closed” the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had said.

In a statement, Navlakha said the “draconian provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act are not accompanied by stricter procedures regarding evidence, especially electronic, considering the stringent punishment provided for under the Act; the procedures, which otherwise provide tighter rules regarding evidence, are instead made elastic.”

“Under this double whammy, jail becomes the norm and bail an exception. In this Kafkaesque domain, process itself becomes punishment,” he said.

He said he can now begin to face the actual legal process, which accompanies cases where provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act are invoked.

He said such acts turn the normal jurisprudence upside down and added no longer is it the axiom that ”a person is innocent unless proven guilty”.

The Bhima Koregaon violence case which was probed by Pune Police was later taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

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