The Rajasthan High Court
in its judgement dated 1/2/2021 held that smuggling of any valuable commodity which is likely to threaten the monetary stability of the country can be charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA). The judgement gains significance in consideration of various incidents of international gold smuggling reported from several parts of the country.
The judgement of the court came on a petition filed under section 482 of tge Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.), 1973. seeking quashing of an FIR registered by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under section 16 of UAPA,1967 which punishes terrorist acts, read with Section 120-B of IPC, which punishes criminal conspiracy. The Petitioner along with nine other persons was already facing trial under the Customs Act, 1962 for smuggling of 18.569 kilograms of gold when the impugned FIR was registered. The Counsel for the petitioner contended that the second FIR amounts to a violation of the fundamental rights of the Petitioner against Double Jeopardy under Article 20 of the Constitution. It was alleged that the registering of the FIR by NIA was discriminatory as the usual practice is that offences of gold smuggling were dealt under the Customs Act alone. Further, it was argued that smuggling of gold is not covered by the definition of 'Terrorist Act' under Section 15 of the UAPA,1967.
The opposing counsel, however, argued that the petitioner was involved in smuggling of large quantities of gold which is evident from his statement. Also, he has acted as a facilitator for others to smuggle gold into India. The activities of the petitioner can threaten the economic stability of India. They argue that these activities of the Petitioner come under the definition of 'terrorist act' as it is given in Section 15(I)(a) (iii a) of UAPA,1967. Section 15(I)(a) (iii a) of UAPA, 1967 states that ‘Terrorist Act’ includes, among others:
“…damage to, the monetary stability of India by way of production or smuggling or circulation of high-quality counterfeit Indian paper currency, coin or of any other material…”
It is argued that gold can be seen to be included in the ‘other material’ mentioned in the act. Also, the offences under the Customs Act are distinct from the offences mentioned in the UAPA so two FIRs are justified. Any strike down of the impugned FIR will amount to grant of interim relief to the accused which is explicitly barred by the Act. The court observed that section 15 of the UAPA, 1967 includes not only acts that threaten the economic stability of India but also any act that is likely to threaten such stability also. Further, it observed that it is the wisdom of the legislature that is shown by the inclusion of the terms ‘any other material’ in the provision. The terms provide sufficient flexibility to include the smuggling of any valuable material which is likely to affect economic stability under the definition of ‘Terrorist Act’. In its judgement the court held that:
“…. gold is certainly a valuable material, smuggling of which can be done with intent to threaten or likely to threaten the economic security of the country…”
The court further clarified that every act of smuggling is not a terrorist act but only when it threatens or is likely to threaten the economic stability of the country such an act comes under such a definition. In the present case, the court held that the facts clearly show that there was a likely threat to financial stability due to the large quantity of gold smuggled into the country.
Further, it was ruled that the offences under the Customs Act,1962 and the UAPA, 1967 are distinct and can be separately prosecuted. So, the court dismissed the petition without striking down the FIR.
The ruling of the court correctly interprets the law following its intention to provide the necessary stability for the law enforcement agency to tackle emerging threats to the sovereignty and economic stability of India. [READ JUDGMENT]