SC criticizes HC ruling in Terrorism conspiracy case: Also clarified for charge under section 18 of UAPA, showing involvement in the actual commission of a terrorist act under Section 15 of UAPA is not necessary.

CASE TITLE – Union of India v. Barakathulla Etc.


DATED ON – 22.05.2024

QUORUM – Justice Belam M. Trivedi & Justice Pankaj Mithal



The Central Government in Ministry of Home Affairs, CTCR Division having received credible information that the office bearers, members and cadres of Popular Front of India (PFI), an extremist Islamic organization have been spreading its extremist ideology across Tamil Nadu, by establishing State Headquarters at Purasaiwakkam, Chennai and also offices in various districts of Tamil Nadu and that through their frontal Organizations like Campus Front of India, National Women’s Front, Social Democratic Party of India etc., they conspire for committing terrorist acts, raise funds for committing terrorist activities and recruit members for furthering their extremist ideology, and that the frontal organizations and PFI were involved in the recruitment of members to various prescribed terrorist organizations, passed an order on 16th September 2022, in exercise of the powers conferred under sub-section (5) of Section 6 read with Section 8 of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘NIA Act’), directing the National Investigation Agency to take up investigation of the said case. In view of the said order, an FIR being RC-42/2022/NIA/DLI came to be registered on 19.09.2022 against the present respondents and other members and office bearers of PFI for the offences under Section 120(b), 153(A). 153(AA) of IPC and Section 13,17,18,18(B), 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1957 (hereinafter referred to as the “UAPA”).

During the course of the investigation, the respondents/accused were arrested on 22.09.2022 for the alleged offences and had filed for bail applications before the Special Court (Sessions Court for Exclusive Trial of Bomb Blast Cases). The Special Court after considering the case diary, the documents and material produced before it, and after having been satisfied about the prima facie case made out against the respondents-accused as also considering the provisions of Section 43D of the UAPA in the light of the position of law settled by this Court in various decisions, dismissed the said bail applications filed by the respondents. Being aggrieved by the said orders, the respondents filed Criminal Appeals before the High Court of Judicature at Madras. During the pendency of the said Appeals, the chargesheet came to be filed by the appellant, NIA against all the respondents along with other accused on 17.03.2023 for the offences under Sections 120B, 121A, 122, 153A, 505(1)(b), (c), (2) of IPC and Sections 13,18, 18A, 18B of UAPA. The High Court after taking into consideration the submissions made and materials placed on record including the Chargesheet, allowed the said Appeals by the common impugned order dated 19.10.2023, releasing the respondents on bail subject to the conditions mentioned therein. Being aggrieved by the said order, appeals had been filed at the Hon’ble Supreme Court by the Union of India through NIA, Chennai Branch.


Whether the High Court was justified in granting bail despite serious charges against the accused under UAPA?



Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, prescribes the punishment for unlawful activities.

Section 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, prescribes what can be considered as conspiracy to commit a terrorist act.

Section 43D of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, prescribes the special provisions as to make bail.

Section 8 of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008, prescribes the power of the NIA to investigate connected offences.



The Learned Counsel for the Appellant had vehemently submitted that the High Court had miserably failed to comprehend the correct import of Section 18 read with the definition of terrorist act contemplated under Section 15 of the UAPA for releasing the respondents on bail who have been charged with very serious offences. According to him, the High Court had fallen into patent and manifest error in not appreciating the overt acts and commission of alleged offences by the respondents, as stated by the listed witnesses/protected witnesses. He plced heavy reliance on the statements of the protected witnesses/listed witnesses had taken the court to the said statements to show the role and involvement of each of the respondents in the commission of the alleged offences under the IPC and UAPA. He further submitted that the High Court has committed grave error in trivializing the serious allegations made against the respondents by holding that except the witnesses having stated about respondents organizing weapon training for using knives and swords and to train members to throw beer bottles filled with water on targets, there is no material to suggest the commission of any offence which falls under Section 15 of UAPA, whereas all these alleged acts were part of the preparation of committing terrorist acts, particularly when the respondents were imparting training as to how to hurl bombs by using water-filled beer bottles and how to use weapons like knives and swords to strike terror in the mind of people.



The learned Senior Counsels appearing for the Respondents had emphatically submitted that the reliance of the appellant on the statements made by the protected/listed witnesses was highly improper as the said witnesses themselves had participated in the alleged commission of offences. According to them, the vague allegations made by the said witnesses, could not be relied upon, more particularly when there was no material brought on record to show any preparatory work done by the respondents to prima facie make out the case against the respondents. They also relied upon the observations made by the High Court in the impugned order to submit that the High Court had in detail considered the evidence collected by the appellant during the course of the investigation and having not found substance in the same has released the respondents on bail which order should not be interfered with. Relying upon various decisions of this Court, they submitted that the impugned order having been passed by the High Court exercising its discretion, could neither be said to be illegal nor unjust.



The Hon’ble Supreme Court mainly focused on first interpreting the exact meaning of the provision, specifically, Sections 15 which defines “Terrorist Acts” and 18, which defines the punishment for “Conspiracy”, etc to commit a terrorist act. They further referred to earlier precedents, the first one being National Investigation Agency vs. Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, where it was stated that “the expression “prima facie true” would mean that the materials/evidence collated by the investigating agency in reference to the accusation against the accused concerned in the first information report, must prevail until contradicted and overcome or disproved by other evidence, and on the face of it, shows the complicity of such accused in the commission of the stated offence. It must be good and sufficient on its face to establish a given fact or the chain of facts constituting the stated offence, unless rebutted or contradicted.” The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the present case believed that the material collated and statements of witnesses recorded also show prima facie complicity of the respondents/accused in the commission of the alleged offences, which material/evidence is good and sufficient on its face to establish the facts constituting the alleged offences, and stated that the High Court has committed gross error in not considering the material/evidence in it’s proper perspective and in recording a perverse finding to the effect that there was no material to suggest the commission of any offence, which falls under Section 15 of UAPA, and 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. They further stated that 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 Hon’ble Supreme Court then held that the impugned order passed by the High Court is set aside and that the respondents should surrender themselves before the appellant, NIA, and stated that since the Chargesheet had already been submitted to the Special Court, they were directed to proceed with the trial as expeditiously as possible and in accordance with law, without being influenced by any of the observations made by this Court in this order.


“PRIME LEGAL is a full-service law firm that has won a National Award and has more than 20 years of experience in an array of sectors and practice areas. Prime legal fall into a category of best law firm, best lawyer, best family lawyer, best divorce lawyer, best divorce law firm, best criminal lawyer, best criminal law firm, best consumer lawyer, best civil lawyer.”

Judgement Reviewed by – Gnaneswarran Beemarao

Click here to view full Judgement

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *