New Delhi, July 6: The Supreme Court on Monday set aside a Delhi High Court order questioning the “frantic hurry” with which civil rights campaigner Gautam Navlakha was shifted out of the national capital to Mumbai in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case.

A three-judge Bench led by Justice Arun Mishra expunged expressions like “inexplicable and frantic hurry” and “unseemly haste” used by High Court judge Justice Anup Bhambhani in his seven-page order on May 27 to describe the manner in which Navlakha was taken to Mumbai, The Hindu reported.

Justice Bhambhani had found it puzzling how the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took Navlakha out of the national capital a day before his bail hearing was scheduled before the High Court.

The apex court, however, said the High Court had no jurisdiction to hear the bail application. It should be rightly heard by the Bombay High Court as Navlakha was within its jurisdiction.

“Since the respondent [Navlakha] has been moved to Bombay, he is at liberty to apply before the competent court in Bombay. Thus, we set aside the impugned order [of the Delhi High Court], including the observations and the proceedings which were initiated. It is the courts at Bombay alone having the jurisdiction, which can entertain the application. Thus, the appeal is allowed”, the top court observed in the order.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal said the Delhi High Court had merely sought documents of the transfer of his client, Navlakha, to Mumbai and this was not exactly a “relief”.

Justice Bhambhani had ordered the NIA to provide a “complete copy” of the proceedings for Navlakha’s production warrant before the Special Judge (NIA), Mumbai. The NIA had appealed the order and the apex court stayed it early in June. On Monday, the court decided in favour of the NIA and set aside the High Court order to produce the production warrant records.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the NIA had disclosed everything to the court. The production warrant for Navlakha was processed quickly owing to the uncertainty surrounding the lockdown and availability of inter-State flights. Besides, the other accused persons in the case were tried in Mumbai.

“When he [Navlakha] moved the Delhi High Court, we had already informed the High Court that all other accused are in Bombay. We took him after a judicial order, which was a production warrant by the Special Court of Mumbai. The High Court ceases to have jurisidiction and is completely unwarranted”, Mehta argued.

On May 27, Justice Bhambhani his wonder at why the NIA took him out of Delhi when it had itself sought time to file a status report in the High Court.

Navlakha, 67, and Anand Teltumbde, an academic and scholar, were ordered by the Supreme Court in April to surrender in the Bhima Koregaon case. They pleaded then that sending them to jail amid the COVID-19 pandemic was “virtually a death sentence“.

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