SC rejects NIA’s plea against Sudha Bharadwaj’s release on bail | Latest India News
The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) request against the bail granted by the Bombay High Court to activist Sudha Bharadwaj, accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence case, because she claimed that only a special tribunal was competent to give the agency more time to complete its investigation in the 2018 case.
A bench, led by Judge Uday U Lalit, found there was no infirmity in the High Court’s Dec. 1 order granting default bond to Bhardwaj due to the agency’s legal loophole investigation requesting a period of more than 90 days to file an indictment in the case.
âThe moot question is whether the court was a competent court to grant an extension of time beyond the stipulated 90 days for filing the indictment. If jurisdiction was lacking, there was no valid extension of time and the lady had already moved for a bond. She was therefore entitled to a legal bond … we see no reason to interfere with the Bombay high court order, âobserved the judiciary, which also included Judges S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M Trivedi.
The court warned the NIA against any extraordinary arguments in its appeal against Bhardwaj’s bail order that could cast a shadow of doubt over the validity of the proceedings in several other cases filed under the Illegal Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
âYour argument must be in the context of the entire universe of the criminal case. You can’t argue in this case and leave it, âthe judiciary commented, as Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, representing the NIA, attempted to argue that states cannot constitute courts under NIA law. as long as the central government has not approved the transfer of investigations to them.
Lekhi had made this argument to support the fact that not only a special tribunal, but even a sessional tribunal, had the right to extend the deadline for filing the indictment. The NIA did not resume the investigation until January 2020 when the 90 days expired on January 25, 2019.
âHow many such cases have you transferred? This means that states that have constituted courts under the NIA are incompetent. It cannot be … you will make your law redundant. You can’t make this argument just for this case and leave it at that. You unduly restrict section 22 of the NIA Act (on the power of states to establish special courts). Otherwise, too, you strip the state of its normal powers, âthe judiciary said, rejecting Lekhi’s submissions.
Several activists, lawyers and perpetrators are indicted under the UAPA for participating in an alleged Maoist plot to start violence on January 1, 2018, in the village of Bhima Koregaon in the Pune district of Maharashtra.
On December 1, the High Court allowed Bharadwaj’s release on bail, pointing out that a judge in the Pune sessions, who granted police a 90-day extension on November 26, 2018, to file the indictment , had no jurisdiction to do so, as only a special NIA tribunal could hear UAPA cases. The high court pointed out that the Pune Sessions Court had not been notified as a special court under the NIA law. There was already a special NIA tribunal in Pune at the material time, he noted.
Bhardwaj, who had filed for bail after 90 days had expired, was therefore released on bail by the court, which asked the activist to apply to a special NIA court on December 8 for the conditions of the deposit are fixed. She is currently detained at Byculla Women’s Prison. But the requests of eight co-defendants accused of terrorism and conspiracy to allegedly instigate violence in Bhima Koregaon were rejected because they did not seek bail immediately after the 90 days expired.
The NIA moved the supreme court shortly after the high court allowed default bail in Bharadwaj, saying the high court failed to understand that all courtrooms were competent to consider issues relating to the pre-trial detention and the extension of the deadline for filing the indictment.
On Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta raised the case before India’s Chief Justice NV Ramana, requesting an urgent listing. He informed the court that the case was due to be heard by Wednesday, when the bail order will take effect.
When the case was taken to the court headed by Judge Lalit on Tuesday, Lekhi insisted that the court’s jurisdiction is irrelevant for the purposes of pre-trial detention. âThe jurisdiction of a court is only relevant for the purposes of the trial. Pre-trial detention is separate from trial and investigation, âLekhi argued, citing article 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which speaks of pre-trial detention and the extension of pre-trial detention.
However, referring to Article 167, the judiciary pointed out that while the provision provides that an accused must be brought before a nearest magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest, it mentions that a court must show proof of good judgment by allowing time for an investigative body to complete its investigation and lay the indictment with the accused in custody.
âIf the word used in the reservation of section 167 isâ tribunal âandâ non magistrate â, there must be a legislative intention behind it. Why should we now read a “tribunal” as a “magistrate”? There is a hierarchy of courts under the NIA Act. If there hadn’t been any intermediate stages or special tribunals, you might have been right. But if there are special courts, your argument does not bode well, âthe judge told Lekhi.
âAlso, imagine a situation where a magistrate, who is not competent to try a case, refuses to grant an extension of time and releases the accused, what will you do? That would create a very awkward situation … A court that otherwise does not have jurisdiction to hear a case will render a decision of this nature. Will this not undermine the economy of your law, according to which only a competent court should rule on the merits of a case? This is why it must be interpreted as a special tribunal â, observed the magistracy.