NIA hands Rs 1.64 cr 'bill' as house arrest charges to Navlakha, activist says 'extortion'

The agency cannot demand one crore from citizens for keeping them in custody, says senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan

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


The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday told the Supreme Court that Gautam Navlakha is required to make a payment of Rs 1.64 crore towards expenses for making police personnel available for his security during house arrest even as the 67-year-old activist's lawyer disputed the figure and accused the agency of "extortion".

Appearing for NIA, additional solicitor-general S.V. Raju told a bench of justices M.M. Sundresh and S.V.N. Bhatti that 70-year-old Navlakha, arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, has only paid an amount of Rs 10 lakh as of now as part of the expenses incurred for round-the-clock security. "He must pay some amount," Raju said.

Senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, appearing for Navlakha, contested the figure of Rs 1.64 crore saying the agency's calculation of the amount payable was wrong and contrary to the relevant rules.

She said, "We have contested this amount by NIA and the matter needs to be heard. They cannot demand one crore from citizens for keeping them in custody."

The law officer retorted, "Citizens are not entitled to house arrest."

Ramakrishnan then said, "Even by their own rules, this is not the amount. And therefore there cannot be extortion. A poor man can never get out." Raju strongly objected to the use of the term "extortion".

The court said the matter needs to be heard in detail and posted the case for April. The stay imposed by the Bombay High Court on the operation of its order granting bail to Navlakha will continue until then.

The Bombay High Court had on 19 December 2023 granted bail to Navlakha but stayed its order for three weeks after the NIA sought time to file an appeal in the top court. The apex court had earlier said keeping Navlakha under house arrest further will set a "wrong precedent".

Navlakha was under house arrest at a public library in Mumbai since November 2022. While ordering his house arrest on 10 November, the apex court had directed Navlakha to deposit Rs 2.4 lakh towards 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.

As many as 16 activists have been arrested in the case and five of them are currently out on bail.

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