If no Special Court is designated, Court of Sessions try UAPA Cases: Supreme Court

Case No:  SLP(Crl.) No(s). 7880 of 2023
Decided on: 18th April,2024

Facts of the case

SI Raju Debnath of the STF Police Station in Kolkata, on December 28, 2021, regarding the discovery of an unclaimed black backpack that had been left behind at Sahid Minar and included Following the discovery of several written CPI (Maoist) posters and incriminating articles about the organization’s activities. After conducting a preliminary inquiry, the investigating officer filed an application at the Court of the Honorable Chief Metropolitan Magistrate is pleading for the inclusion of offenses that are punishable by the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 . He permitted those offenses to be investigated in addition to the already-existing offenses for which a formal complaint had been filed. The investigating officer was instructed to complete the required actions prior to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, learnt. He allowed the investigating agency to file a charge sheet after the 90-day mark but within 180 days.

Petitioner’s contentions

The Appellant, said that the state police are conducting the investigation and prosecution in this case, not the National Investigation Agency is the Central Agency. He argued that Section 22 of the NIA Act would control the proceedings and that the High Court erred gravely in law when it quashed the proceedings by using Section 16 of the NIA Act’s provisions. Sessions Court, which had jurisdiction over the division in which the offense was committed and was seized of the exclusive jurisdiction because the case was being investigated by the State police and no Special Court had been established by the State Government under Section 22(1) of the NIA Act. Without affecting the foregoing, the learned senior counsel said that as the accused did not submit an application for default bail, the charge was brought before the ninety-day period had passed. He urged the Court to accept the appeal, overturn the challenged decision, and allow the Sessions Court to continue the accused’s trial for all of the alleged offenses, including those covered by the UAPA.

Respondent’s Contentions

The respondent strongly and passionately argued that the position adopted by the High Court in overturning the ruling dated April 7, 2022 is the Only reasonable and lawful perspective given the current facts and circumstances. However, on the aspect of the grant of default bail to the accused, learned counsel candidly conceded that no prayer was ever made on behalf of the accused either in the Sessions Court or the High Court seeking default bail. The plank contention advanced on behalf of the respondent was that the proceedings before the Chief Judge and the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate are vitiated because both the Courts did not have the jurisdiction to proceed under the provisions of NIA Act and UAPA in light of the fact that Special Court had.

Court Analysis and Judgement

Chief Judge/City Sessions Court was authorized to make the ruling on April 7, 2022. Considering the definition of the “Court” given by UAPA Section 2(1)(d), the jurisdictional magistrate would likewise have the authority to handle the accused’s remand, but only for a maximum of 90 days unless the Sessions Court or the Special Court specifically issued an order allowing remand beyond that time frame. Accordingly, to the degree that the distinguished Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Prolonged the accused’s remand for more than ninety days, the proceedings were flagrantly unlawful. Although the charge sheet was filed after the ninety days and, in fact, even after the one hundred and eighty days, the accused never requested default bail on the grounds that the charge sheet was not filed within the extended period allowed by Section 43D of the UAPA. Therefore, in these circumstances, the Court’s only remaining academic concern would be the impact of any evidence that was gathered during this time of so called illegal remand, following the expiration of ninety days from the date of the accused’s original remand and the accused’s right to pursue any other available legal remedy in opposition to such illegal remand. These kinds of questions would need to be brought up in the right channels, that is, before the trial court at the right time. The contested ruling, dated May 11, 2023, issued by an experienced Calcutta High Court single judge, cannot be upheld in light of the foregoing explanation, and it Is thus overturned and set Appeal is allowed.

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Judgement Analysis Written by – K. Immey Grace

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