'Only 1 Witness Was Examined Out Of 54': Calcutta HC Grants Bail To UAPA Accused Who Was In Custody For 3 Years
The Calcutta High Court granted bail to a man accused in a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and was in custody for three years. The Court noted that out of the total fifty-four witnesses and only one had been examined.
The Court noted that the inordinate delay in concluding the trial violated the petitioner's fundamental right to speedy trial.
The Bench of Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice Ajay Kumar Gupta observed that “Petitioner is in custody for about three years. Only one witness has been examined till date. 54 witnesses are cited in the charge sheet and it is left to one’s imagination when the trial will conclude. Co-accuseds were advised to plead guilty and have been sentenced to term imprisonment i.e. five years and nine months. Petitioner stands on a better footing than the co-accuseds. He does not have criminal antecedents. No explosive substance was recovered from his possession. As the petitioner has suffered incarceration for almost half of the sentence awarded to the co-accuseds in the same case and the possibility of conclusion of trial is a far cry, we are inclined to enlarge the petitioner on bail subject to strict conditions.”
In this case, bail application was preferred under Section 439 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 in a case where FIR was lodged under Sections 120B/121/121A/123/125 of the Indian Penal Code and added Sections 4/5/6 of the Explosive and Substance Act along with Sections 17/18/18A/19/20/21/23 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Advocate Jhuma Sen appearing for the petitioner contended that the petitioner had been in the custody for about three years and only one witness had been examined out of 54 witnesses cited in the charge sheet. Co-accused were awarded about six years of rigorous imprisonment on each count and the petitioner had suffered incarceration for nearly half of the sentence awarded to the co-accused.
Advocate Ranabir Roy Chowdhury appeared for the State and contended that the petitioner was a member of a terrorist organisation viz., Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and anti-national pamplets/literatures were recovered from his possession.
The Court perused the records and noted that JMB’ was not declared a terrorist organisation at the time of registration of FIR and that the petitioner was arrested in 2020 when the organisation had already been declared as a ‘terrorist organisation’ under UAPA.
The Court observed that the inordinate delay in trial violated the petitioner's fundamental right to speedy trial and relied upon Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Union of India Vs. K. A. Najeeb (2021) 3 SCC 713 wherein it was held that ‘a plea for bail on the ground of inordinate delay was not fettered by the restrictions under Section 43D(5) of UAPA.’
The Court further expressed that “Though it cannot be said that there are no materials against the petitioner to proceed with the trial, a more seminal issue is raised with regard to inordinate delay in trial infracting the petitioner’s fundamental right to speedy trial.”
Therefore, the Court granted bail to the accused and imposed strict bail conditions on the accused-
“Upon furnishing a bond of Rs.25,000/- with two sureties of like amount each, one of whom must be local, to the satisfaction of the learned Chief Judge, City Sessions Court, Calcutta subject to condition that he shall appear before the trial court on every date of hearing until further orders and shall not intimidate witnesses or tamper with evidence in any manner whatsoever and on further condition that the petitioner while on bail shall not remain within the municipal limits of the city of Kolkata and shall provide the address where he shall presently reside to the Investigating Agency as well as the court below and shall report to the Officer-in-charge of the Police Station within whose jurisdiction he shall presently reside once in a week until further orders.”
Accordingly, the bail application was disposed of.
Cause Title- In the matter of Sk. Rejaul @ Kiran @ Rutu