Human rights activist Gautam Navlakha was on Tuesday granted bail by the Supreme Court in the Bhima Koregaon case, Bar and Bench reported.

A bench of Justices MM Sundresh and SVN Bhatti granted the bail subject to the payment of Rs 20 lakh towards the cost of Navlakha’s security during his house arrest.

The court was hearing a plea by the National Investigative Agency challenging the the Bombay High Court’s December order granting bail to Navlakha.

Navlakha, 70, is among 16 academicians, activists and lawyers who have been charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for their alleged role in instigating caste violence at Bhima Koregaon near Pune in January 2018.

Navlakha was arrested in August 2018 and placed under house arrest in November 2022 after the Supreme Court granted his request to be shifted from jail on the grounds of ill health and poor facilities in prison.

In December, the Bombay High Court granted Navlakha bail on grounds that there was no material to suggest that he had committed a terrorist act as defined by the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

The court, however, stayed the bail order for three weeks to allow the National Investigation Agency to appeal against it before the Supreme Court.

The stay was extended repeatedly until Tuesday, when the Supreme Court noted that the trial in the case would take “years and years and years for its completion”.

The appellant has been in incarceration for more than four years and charges are yet to be framed,” said the bench, reported Live Law. “The High Court by detailed order has deemed fit to grant bail. Thus…without going into the respective contention, we are not inclined to extend the stay.”

The Supreme Court was also hearing Navlakha’s appeal to shift the location of his house arrest to Mumbai. The central agency has challenged this plea.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, representing the National Investigative Agency, told the court on Tuesday that the dues owed to it in view of the security costs incurred during Navlakha’s house arrest had risen to Rs 1.75 crore.

However, Senior Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, appearing for the activist, challenged the central agency’s contention that Navlakha was liable to pay the amount.

The court then ordered Navlakha to deposit Rs 20 lakh.

In a hearing on April 9, the Supreme Court had told Navlakha that he would have to reimburse the National Investigation Agency the costs it had incurred towards his house arrest.

Navlakha is the seventh person accused in the case to get bail. In April, former Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen was released from jail, days after she was granted bail by the Supreme Court. Activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira also got default bail in July last year while Sudha Bharadwaj Was granted default bail in 2021.

Under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, an accused person can only be detained up to a particular time. After this period, they have to be given bail if the police do not file a chargesheet. Bail under this section is referred to as default bail or compulsory bail.

Anand Teltumbe received bail in 2022. Varavara Rao was granted bail on medical grounds in 2022.

One of the accused, Stan Swamy, had died in custody at a Mumbai hospital on July 5, 2021, nearly nine months after he was arrested. The 84-year-old suffered from multiple ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, and contracted COVID-19 while being held at a prison in Taloja.