A Supreme Court Bench stated on November 9 that it is corrupt who destroy the country, in a sharp response to the government’s claim that people like activist Gautam Navlakha, who is charged under UAPA in the Bhima Koregaon case for alleged Maoist links, “want to destroy the country and their ideology is that type”.
The Bench, led by Justice K.M. Joseph, asked, “Who destroys the country? Want me to tell you? People who are corrupt… What happens in every office you go into?” Justice Joseph was accompanied by Justice Hrishikesh Roy.
Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju sought to clarify that he was not defending the corrupt. “I am not saying the corrupt should be exonerated… I am saying take action against them,” Mr. Raju said.
Justice Joseph observed, “Who takes action against the corrupt? Recently, we saw a video in which people talk about crores of rupees to buy our so-called elected representatives. Are they not doing anything against our country? The point is you do not defend them [the corrupt], but they go on merrily… They are moneybags and they can get away with it.”
The oral exchange came while hearing a plea made by the 70-year-old Mr. Navlakha to shift him from jail to house arrest for medical reasons.
The Bench referred to Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest and tribal activist who died in hospital after a court refused him medical bail. The Bench also referred to Sudha Bhardwaj, a lawyer and another accused in the case, who had got bail.
In Mr. Navlakha’s case, the court said it was considering only house arrest and not release on bail.
“He is a 70-year-old man. He is not in the best of health. We don’t know how long he will live. Nobody knows… Certainly he is going towards the inevitable,” Justice Joseph said.
The court asked the government to suggest restrictions it wanted to impose on him while in house arrest.
“You can suggest whatever restrictions you want, but at the same time we need to give this man, for what it is worth, measured and regulated freedom. We are conscious we have to tread carefully, we will see that nothing happens contrary to the interests of our country, if he does anything of the kind he will lose his freedom… What worries us is that he has got a host of health problems,” Justice Joseph told Mr. Raju.
Justice Roy said it was a “little disturbing” to note that hardly any progress had been made since the chargesheet was filed in October 2020.
Mr. Raju contended that it would be difficult to monitor Mr. Navlakha if he was put in house arrest. He could link up with Maoists. The law officer also alleged ISI connections. He said there were doctors and ambulances around the clock in the jail. He would be taken to a hospital of his choice even if it was a “sneezing problem”.
“Their strategy is to get bail hook or by crook,” Mr. Raju submitted.
He said Mr. Navlakha and his co-accused were themselves responsible for the delay of the probe and the trial. They had been filing applications day in and day out, hampering progress in the case.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal highlighted how Mr. Navlakha was an interlocutor for the government to secure the release of people who were kidnapped by Maoists in 2005.
“He had then gone on record saying he was against this activity. He has been dealing with Maoists, but he is not a Maoist. How does his house arrest jeopardise the security of India? He was in house arrest earlier for 40 days,” Mr. Sibal argued.
“He had then gone on record saying he was against this activity… He has been dealing with Maoists, but he is not a Maoist. How does his house arrest jeopardise the security of India? He was in house arrest earlier for 40 days,” Mr. Sibal argued.