Can’t escape liability to pay for security costs, SC to Gautam Navlakha

NIA told SC bench that Navlakha is required to make a payment of Rs 1.64 crore towards expenses for security

Activist-journalist Gautam Navlakha (photo: National Herald archives)
Activist-journalist Gautam Navlakha (photo: National Herald archives)


The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 9 April, said activist Gautam Navlakha cannot escape the liability of paying Rs 1.64 crore towards expenses for the Maharashtra government making available police personnel for his security during his house arrest, as he himself had requested the house arrest.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) told a bench of justices M M Sundresh and S V N Bhatti that Navlakha, arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, is required to make a payment of Rs 1.64 crore towards expenses for security.

"If you have sought for it, you have to pay," the bench told the counsel representing Navlakha.

"The liability, you know, you can't escape because you asked for it (house arrest)," the apex court observed.

Additional solicitor general (ASG) S V Raju, representing the NIA, said Rs 1.64 crore is due and 70-year-old Navlakha has to make the payment for the security provided during his house arrest.

Terming the order of house arrest as "unusual", Raju said a large number of police personnel have been deployed round-the-clock for security during his house arrest.

The counsel representing Navlakha said there is no difficulty in paying per se but the issue was with respect to calculation.

The ASG said Navlakha had earlier made payments of over Rs 10 lakh for this and now he is avoiding making payment.

"There is no question of avoiding," Navlakha's counsel said.

His counsel said the NIA's plea, challenging the 19 December 2023 order of the Bombay High Court which had granted bail to Navlakha, was also required to be heard.

The high court had granted him bail but stayed its order for three weeks after the NIA had sought time to file an appeal in the top court.

On 5 January, the apex court had extended the stay imposed by the high court on the operation of its order granting bail to Navlakha.

During the hearing on Tuesday before the apex court, the ASG said earlier, Navlakha himself had asked for house arrest and whether the bail is allowed or not, he has to make the payment for the expenses incurred for round-the-clock security.

"The issue of bail is slightly different. He had first said 'put me in house arrest because I am not well'. Now he is hale and hearty, everything is okay," he said.

"We had said if he will be put in house arrest at a place where he wanted to be lodged, then it require police personnel round-the-clock… He said 'I will pay the cost'," Raju said, adding, "Every day, it is mounting. He can't escape".

He said Navlakha cannot avoid making the payment in the guise of saying that he wanted to calculate.

"As long as you continue to have this facility, the figures are going to fly higher and higher. What we are today thinking is, instead of allowing it to touch the highest level, we will give one week time," the bench told Navlakha's counsel.

It said Navlakha's counsel can see the calculation and tell the court about it.

The bench, which said the interim stay granted on 5 January shall continue, posted the matter for hearing on 23 April.

On 7 March, Navlakha's lawyer had disputed the figure in the apex court and accused the agency of "extortion".

Raju had strongly objected to the use of the term "extortion".

Navlakha is under house arrest at a public library in Mumbai since November 2022.

While ordering his house arrest on 10 November 2022, the apex court had directed Navlakha to deposit Rs 2.4 lakh towards the expenses to be borne by the state for deploying police personnel to effectively place him under house arrest.

Later, it had again directed Navlakha to deposit another Rs 8 lakh as expenses for providing police personnel for his security.

On 10 November 2022, the top court had allowed Navlakha, who was then lodged in Navi Mumbai's Taloja prison in connection with the case, to be placed under house arrest owing to his deteriorating health.

The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on 31 December 2017, which police claim triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city.

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