Supreme Court Holds Gautam Navlakha Liable for House Arrest Security Costs

Supreme Court asserts activist Gautam Navlakha must pay ₹1.64 crore security costs for house arrest, rejecting evasion claims, amid ongoing Bhima Koregaon case hearings.

The Supreme Court, in a hearing on Tuesday, emphasized that activist Gautam Navlakha is liable to pay security costs for his house arrest, dismissing his attempts to evade this obligation. Navlakha, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon riot case, owes the National Investigation Agency (NIA) approximately ₹1.64 crore for surveillance expenses during his house arrest. The Bench of Justices MM Sundresh and SVN Bhatti asserted that if Navlakha requested house arrest, he must bear the associated costs. However, Advocate Shadan Farasat, representing Navlakha, contested the figures provided by the NIA, prompting Additional Solicitor General SV Raju's skepticism. Despite Farasat's willingness to pay, Raju insisted on the accuracy of the costs incurred.

The Court stressed the need for cooperation between the parties and scheduled the next hearing for April 19 while extending the interim stay on Navlakha's bail. Navlakha, a human rights activist and former Secretary of the People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), has been under house arrest in Navi Mumbai since November 2022 due to health concerns. The Court also addressed Navlakha's plea to change his house arrest location alongside the NIA's appeal against the Bombay High Court's bail order.

During the proceedings, ASG Raju reiterated the NIA's stance that Navlakha must pay for the surveillance expenses, emphasizing the significant police presence required for house arrest. Justice Sundresh emphasized Navlakha's liability, stating that if he sought house arrest, he must bear the costs. Despite Farasat's assurance of payment, Raju maintained the necessity of paying the incurred expenses.

The Court adjourned the matter to April 23 to examine the calculations and any objections raised. Meanwhile, the stay on the Bombay High Court's bail order was extended. Navlakha has been in custody since August 2018 for alleged offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, related to the Bhima Koregaon violence and alleged ties to proscribed organizations. The NIA's demand for payment of surveillance expenses has been a point of contention, with Navlakha's legal team accusing the agency of extortion.