‘Only one Special Court trying cases under NIA Act frustrates the purpose’; SC directs West Bengal to designate more courts

Supreme Court: After granting bail to a 74-year-old arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, as after the charge-sheets came to be filed way back in 2012, the charges were framed after 7 years and hearing was taking place only one day in a month, the bench of Ajay Rastogi* and Abhay S. Oka, JJ said that if this procedure is being followed in conducting the trial under the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008, it frustrates the very purpose with which the special Courts are designated.

Under the scheme of the Act 2008,

  • the power is vested with the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court, for the trial of scheduled offences, designate one or more Courts of Session as Special Courts, by notification in the Official Gazette, with the place of jurisdiction of special Courts and its jurisdictional power has been defined under Sections 13 and 14 of the Act 2008.
  • Section 19 of the Act 2008 mandates that the trial under the Act of any offence by a Special Court shall be held on day-to-day basis on all working days and shall be concluded in preference to the trial of such other case and accordingly the trial of such other case shall, if necessary, remain in abeyance.
  • The power of State Government to designate one or more Courts as Special Courts for the trial of offences under any or all the enactments specified in the Schedule is provided under Section 22 of the Act, 2008.

However, the Court was informed that only one such Special Court has been designated by the State of West Bengal to try such cases under the Act 2008.

The Court, hence, directed the State of West Bengal to take up the issue and designate more dedicated courts of Sessions as Special Courts for the trial of offences specified in the schedule appended to the Act 2008. At the same time, the Central Government may also, in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court, Calcutta may exercise its power and take up the issue at the earliest so that such trials which are pending under the Act 2008 may go ahead speedily and the mandate, as intended by the legislature in its wisdom, reflected from Section 19 of the Act, is being complied with in its letter and spirit.

Read more details on the case, here.

[Ashim v. National Investigation Agency, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1156, decided on 01.12.02021]


*Judgment by: Justice Ajay Rastogi

Know Thy Judge | Justice Ajay Rastogi

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