Punjab and Haryana High Court: Anupinder Singh Grewal, J., granted bail to the woman who was in custody along with her barely two years old infant in connection with alleged offence committed under UAPA. The main allegation against the petitioner was with regard to a Facebook post supporting banned organization ‘Sikhs for Justice 2020 Referendum’.
The petitioner approached the Court for seeking regular bail in connection with offences under Sections 307, 438, 427, 148, 149 of Penal Code, 1860 (Sections 121, 121-A, 122, 124-A, 115, 120-B IPC) and Sections 11, 12, 13, 17, 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) including offences under Sections 25, 54 and 59 of the Arms Act and Section 66-F of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The contention of the petitioner was that she was not named in the FIR in connection with the main incriminating even, wherein a wine shop had been set on fire and the only allegation against her, as transpired from the statement of a co-accused, that she had posted on her Facebook account about ‘Sikhs for Justice 2020 Referendum’. The petitioner further submitted that besides that social media post there was no allegation that she had participated in any unlawful activity. The petitioner admitted ‘Sikhs for Justice Organisation’ had been banned by the Government of India in July, 2019, however, she contended that the alleged post was made on 31-05-2018, when the organisation was not yet banned.
Considering that the allegations against the petitioner, that she had posted about ‘referendum-2020’ on her Facebook account and there was stated to be an audio recording of the petitioner being in conversation with co-accused, the Bench opined that the authenticity and evidentiary value of the audio would be determined at the trial and there was no reference to any act of violence (overt) which was actually committed by any of the accused in the instant case or that any individual had been harmed.
The petitioner was a lady with three minor children, one of whom was about one year and nine months old and is lodged with her in jail. Noticeably, the petitioner had been in custody for over two years and three months and the trial had come to a standstill as a Coordinate Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court had stayed further proceedings and there was no likelihood that the trial will be concluded soon. Further, the petitioner did not has any criminal antecedents and the co-accused Harnam Singh and Nirmal Singh had been granted bail as well.
Following the law as laid down in Union of India v. K.A. Najeeb, (2021) 3 SCC 713, wherein the Supreme Court had held that Article 21 of the Constitution provides right to speedy trial therefore long period of incarceration would be a good ground to grant bail to an under-trial for an offence punishable under the UAPA and the embargo under Section 43-D of the UAPA (whereas at commencement of proceedings, Courts are expected to appreciate the legislative policy against grant of bail )would not negate the powers of the Court to give effect to Article 21 of the Constitution, the Bench allowed the petition and the petitioner was ordered to be released on regular bail.
However, the petitioner was directed to furnish her mobile number to the SHO concerned, to keep the location of her phone on and to appear before the SHO on the first Monday of every month till conclusion of the trial. [Deep Kaur v. State of Punjab, CRM-M-41771 of 2020, decided on 21-12-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For the Petitioner: Simranjit Singh, Advocate and Arnav Sood, Advocate
For the State: Amarjit Kaur Khurana, DAG, Punjab