The Jharkhand High Court dismissed an appeal filed against the rejection of bail by the Special Court to a UAPA accused allegedly connected to banned terrorist organisation CPI(Maoist).

The Court noted that the grant of bail is barred under Section 43D(5) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UA(P) Act) if the accusations are prima facie true, based on the evidence in the First Information Report unless they are effectively contradicted.

The Court noted that the accused actively supported the Naxal outfit, assisting his brother in collecting money through levy and therefore releasing him from judicial custody would be inappropriate.

The Bench comprising Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad and Justice Pradeep Kumar Srivastava observed, “it will be purposeful to discuss the core of Section 43D(5) of the Act, 1967 which mandates that the person shall not be released on bail if the court is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusations made are prima facie true”.

Advocate Indrajit Sinha appeared for the Appellant and Advocate Amit Kumar Das appeared for the Union.

The Appellant filed an appeal under Section 21(4) of the National Investigation Agency Act (NIA Act), 2008, challenging the order, wherein the NIA Special Court rejected the appellant's prayer for regular bail. The case originated from an FIR, alleging offences under Sections 386, 411, and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), Section 17 of the CL(A) Act, and Sections 13, 16, 17, 20, 21, and 23 of the UA(P) Act. The appellant, along with two others, was apprehended by the police while allegedly delivering levy money to a Maoist cadre. The NIA took over the investigation, and after previous bail pleas were dismissed.

This Court, in deliberating on the appellant's eligibility for bail, found it pertinent to discuss established legal principles and provisions of the UA(P) Act. The primary objective of the UA(P) Act was to empower authorities to address activities against India's integrity and sovereignty. Section 3 empowers the declaration of associations as unlawful, and a person continuing to be a member of such an association can face imprisonment and fines. CPI (Maoist) is listed as a "terrorist organization" under Clause (m) of Section 2. Section 10(a)(i) punishes association with declared unlawful organizations. Section 13 prescribes penalties for participating in unlawful activities.

Significantly, the Bench noted that Section 43D(5) of the UA(P) Act mandates that bail may be denied if there are reasonable grounds to believe the accusations are prima facie true.

The Court observed the stipulations of Section 43D(5) of the UA(P) Act concerning the grant of regular bail. The Bench interpreted "prima facie true" to mean that the materials and evidence gathered by the investigating agency, on the allegations in the First Information Report, should prevail unless contradicted or disproved. The evidence must overtly demonstrate the accused's involvement in the alleged offence, with this satisfaction being of a lesser degree compared to the accused's claim of "not guilty" under other special enactments.

Moreover, the Bench noted that at the bail stage, the Court is anticipated to form an opinion based on general probabilities regarding the accused's role in the alleged offence. A detailed scrutiny of evidence is not obligatory at this juncture. The Bench observed that a Court is obligated to express its opinion on the prima facie truth of the accusation, considering both the FIR and the contents of the charge sheet, along with other materials collected during the investigation.

The Court proceeded to assess the prima facie validity of the charges in comparison to the assertion of the accused's innocence. The Court, after careful consideration of the facts, noted that the appellant was actively associated with the proscribed terrorist organization CPI (Maoist), providing voluntary aid and engaging in activities contrary to the law. The Court also emphasized that the appellant's release on bail could adversely affect the trial, influencing witnesses and tampering with evidence.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the Appeal and affirmed the impugned order.

Cause Title: Kunwar Ganjhu v Union of India

Click here to read/download Judgment