Bombay High Court judge recuses from hearing 2 petitions in Elgar Parishad case

Justice Revati Mohite Dere of the Bombay High Court recused herself from hearing two petitions in the Elgar Parishad case on Wednesday.

File photo of the Bombay High Court.

Bombay High Court's Justice Revati Mohite Dere on Wednesday recused herself from hearing two applications—one by Delhi University's Professor Hany Babu and the other by rights' activist Gautam Navlakha—both accused in the Elgar Parishad case.

Justice Dere was heading a division bench also comprising Justice Virendrasingh Bisht.

The bench had on its docket Babu's bail application, which had been denied by a special court on February 14 of this year.

The application filed by Navalakha seeking access to telephone in the Taloja jail, where he is currently lodged, was also listed before the bench.

When the petitions came up for hearing before the division bench of the Bombay High Court, Justice Dere said, "Not before me. To be listed before an appropriate bench."

This is not the first time that Justice Dere has recused herself from hearing case related to Elgar Parishad. She is also not the only judge to recuse from hearing the Elgar Parishad case.

Justice Sadhana S Jadhav had in April this year, recused from hearing a clutch of petitions filed in the Elgar Parishad case of 2018.

Before that, Justices PB Varale and SS Shinde had also recused themselves from the matter.

Now the petitioners will have to approach the chief justice of the Bombay High Court and request that the petitions be assigned to a new bench.

In his bail application, Babu, 54, who has been in custody for the last two years, has challenged the orders of the special court.

The special court had denied him bail, stating that there was sufficient material on record to prosecute him. It had also recorded a finding that he was an active member of the committee formed for organising the legal defence for GNN Sai Baba, an alleged member of the banned CPI (Maoist) outfit.

However, Babu has claimed that the special court didn't appreciate the material on record.

The bail plea stated the prosecution has wrongly invoked various charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

He further claimed that even if the contents of the FIR lodged against him were taken at their face value, only the offence of supporting a terrorist outfit (sections 38 and 39 of the UAPA) was made out, which provided a sentence of a maximum of 10 years in jail.

Babu further claimed that the prosecution in the case hasn't booked him for either funding, raising funds for the outfit, or even for procuring weapons or participating in the alleged terrorist activities of the CPI (Maoists).

The plea highlighted that he has already spent two years in prison and that the trial isn't likely to commence soon and that there are over 50 witnesses in the case to be examined during the trial.

The chargesheet in the case runs to over 13,000 pages, the plea pointed out.

Meanwhile, Navalakha has sought access to telephone so that he can speak to his family members. He has claimed that ever since the video conferencing facility was shut, he hasn't been allowed to speak to his family members and thus should be allowed to speak to his wife over the telephone.

According to prison authorities, this facility was initiated during the pandemic-induced lockdown as family members could not reach the prison. However, with the pandemic easing, the telephone services were discontinued.