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Judiciary

'National security always paramount,' SC cancels bail of PFI members [Read Judgment]

By Jhanak Singh      23 May, 2024 12:05 PM      0 Comments
National security always paramount SC cancels bail of PFI members

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has said national security is always of paramount importance and any act in aid to any terrorist act, violent or non-violent, is liable to be restricted as it cancelled bail granted to eight suspected members of banned Popular Front of India.

A bench of Justices Bela M Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal pointed out counter terrorism enactments are to strike a balance between the civil liberties of the accused, human rights of the victims and compelling interest of the state.

"The UAPA is one of such Acts which has been enacted to provide for effective prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations, and to deal with terrorist activities, as also to impose reasonable restrictions on the civil liberties of the persons in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India," the bench said.

The court allowed the National Investigation Agency's appeal against the Madras High Court's bail order of October, 2023 and cancelled the bail granted to Barakathullah and others, alleged members of proscribed Popular Front of India.

The bench said for the purpose of considering the offence under Section 18, the commission of terrorist act as contemplated in Section 15 of UAPA is not required to be made out.

What Section 18 contemplates is that whoever conspires or attempts to commit, or advocates, abets, advises or incites, directly or knowingly facilitates the commission of a terrorist act or any act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act would be punishable under the said provision, the bench said.

"Hence, if there is any material or evidence to show that the accused had conspired or attempted to commit a terrorist act, or committed any act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act, such material evidence would be sufficient to invoke Section 18. For attracting Section 18, the involvement of the accused in the actual commission of terrorist act as defined in Section 15 need not be shown," the court said.

In the case, the bench said the High Court gave a perverse finding that the prosecution had not produced any material about the involvement of any of the respondents-accused in any terrorist act or as a member of a terrorist gang or organization or training terrorism.

"Such perverse findings of the High Court deserve to be strongly deprecated more particularly when the appellant has not alleged the offence under Section 15 of UAPA either in the FIR or in the charge sheet against the respondents," the bench said.

Having regard to the seriousness and gravity of the alleged offences, previous criminal history of the respondents as mentioned in the charge sheet, the period of custody undergone by the respondents being hardly one and half years, the severity of punishment prescribed for the alleged offences and prima facie material collected during the course of investigation, the impugned order passed by the High Court cannot be sustained, the bench said.

The court also said charge sheet need not contain detailed analysis of the evidence.

It is for the concerned court considering the application for bail to assess the material/evidence presented by the investigating authority along with the report under Section 173 CrPC in its entirety, to form its opinion as to whether there are reasonable grounds for believing the accusation against the accused is prima facie true or not, the bench said.

The court noted the investigation in the case disclosed that the activities and undeclared objectives of PFI had strong communal and anti-national agenda to establish an Islamic rule in India by radicalization of Muslims and communalization of issues.

After recruitment as members of PFI, they were motivated towards violent terrorist activities by providing training through beginners course and advanced training courses. During the training courses, physical education classes were conducted in which members were taught to attack, assault, maim and murder with bare hands. The training was also given as to how to use weapons like knives and swords and how to hurl bombs.

The court noted within few days of the arrest of the respondents on September 22, 2022, the PFI was declared as an “unlawful association” and was banned by the Government of India under the UAPA.
 

[Read Judgment]



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