UAPA: Right to Bail Despite Serious Allegations Unless Prima Facie Case, Says HC
Image Courtesy: PTI
Bail cannot be denied to a accused merely because allegations are serious unless there is a prima facie case, according to the High Court (HC) of Punjab and Haryana.
Granting bail to a UAPA accused, the court observed that there was no prima facie case for allegedly planning to commit some terrorist acts based on relations with Pakistan, according to a report by LiveLaw.
“On the basis of allegations as levelled against the appellant, prima facie no case can be stated to have been made out to presume that there had been any conspiracy between the appellant and the co-accused to form membership of a terrorist gang and to commit acts against the interest of the nation,” a Division Bench of acting Chief Justice Ritu Bahri and Justice Manisha Batra noted.
Observing that the court’s duty becomes “more onerous” since UAPA has “stringent provisions”, the HC said: “It is well settled that merely because allegations were serious, on that reason alone, bail cannot be denied.”
The court also relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in Vernon v. The State of Maharashtra granting bail to Bhima Koregaon accused and activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira.
The HC made the observations while hearing the bail plea of one Gursewak Singh, against whom an FIR was lodged in 2020 under Sections 379-B, 382, 399, 402, 411, 467, 468, 472, 473 IPC, Sections 15, 16, 17, 18, 18B of UAPA and Section 25 sub sections 6, 7 and 8 of Arms Act and Section 52/54 of Prisons Act.
As per the police, Singh was allegedly a member of a gang hatching plans to commit some terrorist acts in different places in the country. It was also submitted that, as per disclosure statement of the co-accused, the appellant and other accused had robbed 30 kg of gold from IIFL Gold Loan Branch, Gill Road, Ludhiana.
The court noted that as per Section 45 of UAPA, no court shall take cognisance of any offence falling under Chapter IV without previous sanction of the Centre or as the case may be, the state government.
“Admittedly, the sanction for prosecution of the appellant and co-accused in this case had not been granted by the competent authority till the date of presentation of the challan and it was accorded later and then the said sanction is shown to have been filed in the court along with supplementary challan report.”
Therefore, the court said, it’s debatable as to whether it was even competent to take cognisance of the offences punishable under Sections 16, 17, 18 and 18B of UAPA till the date when sanction was granted under Section 45 of the Act.
Besides, no specific role has been attributed to Singh to support the allegations of being involved in antinational activities.
“He is in custody w.e.f. 05.07.2020. Only one out of 38 witnesses have been examined so far. No recovery whatsoever had been effected from the appellant in this case and one revolver and 10 live cartridges were allegedly recovered from him in another case registered prior to this case at Police Station Mohali,” the court observed.
Based on the allegations, prima facie no case can be stated to have been made out to presume that there had been any conspiracy between the appellant and the co-accused to form membership of a terrorist gang and to commit acts against the interest of the nation, the HC added.
Setting aside the Special Court’s order that rejected Singh’s bail, the HC granted him bail considering that he in custody for about three-and-a-half years and that the trial is likely to take time.
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