NIA claims in SC Navlakha owes 1.64 cr towards house arrest security, activist terms it 'extortion'

NIA claims in SC Navlakha owes 1.64 cr towards house arrest security, activist terms it 'extortion'

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

Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the NIA, told a bench of justices M M Sundresh and SVN Bhatti that 70-year-old Navlakha, arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, has only paid an amount of Rs 10 lakh till now as part of 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 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 top 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 December 19 last year 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 is under house arrest at a public library in Mumbai since November 2022.

While ordering his house arrest on November 10, 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 November 10, 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 December 31, 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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