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Supreme Court reserves order in Gautam Navlakha plea for default bail

The Supreme Court today reserved its order in the plea filed by Bhima Koregaon case accused Gautam Navlakha of default bail after completion of the 90-day remand period (Gautam Navlakha v. Union of India).

The Bench of Justices UU Lalit, Indira Banerjee and KM Joseph passed the order in a plea by Navlakha seeking default bail on the ground that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) failed to file its chargesheet within the upper limit of 90 days as prescribed under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

Over the course of today’s hearing, the Bench sought to know whether the two-day transit period to take Navlakha from Delhi to Mumbai, as well as the period for which he was under house arrest, would be part of the 90-day remand period.

Appearing for Navlakha, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal argued that the police had all the time to interrogate Navlakha while he was in police remand. The orders passed by the High Court granting him interim protection did not mean that the police could not interrogate him, he submitted.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju argued that the orders passed by the High Courts and the Supreme Court keeping Navlakha in custody were not orders under Section 167 CrPC. Thus, these periods cannot be counted as part of the 90-day period.

Sibal in his rejoinder submissions countered this argument, saying that the High Court orders placing Navlakha under house arrest were an extension of Section 167 CrPC.

After hearing the parties, the Court proceeded to reserve its order in the matter. The order is likely be pronounced on April 12.

Navlakha had contended before the Bombay High Court that the period for which he was confined under house arrest should be calculated as part of the judicial custody and should be considered while deciding the custody period under Section 167(2).

A Bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik of Bombay High Court had rejected the plea on February 8 on the ground that the period for which an accused is under illegal detention cannot be taken into account while computing the 90-day custody period for grant of default bail.

When authorisation by the Magistrate to keep Navlakha under house arrest was declared illegal by Delhi High Court, consequently rendering the detention itself illegal, that period will not be part of the custody period for grant of statutory bail under Section 167 CrPC, the High Court had held.

“It is not possible for us to fathom a situation where detention of the Appellant (Navlakha) though held to be illegal & unlawful rendering the authorisation by the Magistrate untenable should still be construed as an authorised detention for the purpose of Sub-Section (2) of Section 167 of the CrPC,” the High Court said.

It had, therefore, refused to interfere with the order of the special court which had earlier rejected Navlakha’s plea.

The High Court had further noted that during the period of house arrest, barring the lawyers and ordinary residents of the house, nobody else could meet him. NIA did not have any access to him or any occasion to interrogate him.

“As the transit remand order was stayed, it cannot be said that the appellant was under detention of police for investigation,” the High Court order stated.


Via Bar & Bench
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