Delhi High Court: While granting bail to men accused of smuggling gold, the Division Bench of Mukta Gupta and Mini Pushkarna, JJ., expressed that, the mere smuggling of gold without any connection to a threat to the economic security or monetary stability of the country is not a “terrorist act” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act

Aggrieved by the impugned order declining to grant bail to the appellants in a case registered under Sections 16/18/20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and under Sections 120B/204/409/471 of Penal Code, 1860 at NIA Headquarters, appellants preferred the present appeals.

Factual Matrix

Appellants except appellant Vaibhav Sampat More were intercepted by the Delhi Zonal Unit of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence while travelling from Assam, Guwahati to Delhi and it was alleged that 504 gold bars weighing 83.621 kilograms, which were smuggled and recovered at New Delhi Railway Station.

After the DRI carried out its investigation RC was registered by the National Investigation Agency for alleged commission of criminal conspiracy, furthering terrorist activities and also threatening the economic security and damaging the monetary stability of India as provided under Section   15(1) (a) (iii a) of UAP Act being a terrorist act punishable under Section 16 of the UAP Act.

Additional Solicitor General took the Court to the statement of objects and reasons of the Amendment Act which showed that the amendment was made to the definition of “terrorist act” by bringing in facets of terrorist acts by disturbing the economic stability of the country.

The above-said amendment had been made pursuant to the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force.

Even though the report specifically dealt with gold, the word ‘gold’ was not added while amending Section 15(1) (iiia) UAP Act.

Further possession, use, production, transfer of counterfeit currency or coin is per-se illegal and an offence, however, production, possession, use etc. of “gold‟ is not per-se illegal or an offence. Even import of gold is not prohibited but restricted subject to prescribed quantity on payment of duty.

Thus, mere smuggling of gold without any connection whatsoever to threatening India’s economic security or monetary stability cannot be a terrorist act.

In the present case, Bench noted that since no death had been caused, Clause ‘b’ of Section 16 of UAP Act won’t be applicable which provided for sentence of minimum imprisonment for a period of 5 years which may extend to life imprisonment from 5 years to life based on the facts of the case.

In view of the above discussion, bail was granted to the appellants. The following conditions were laid down:

  • The appellants will furnish a personal bond and a surety bond in the sum of ₹1 lakh each to the satisfaction of the learned Trial Court.
  • Appellants will surrender their passports, if in their possessions, to the Trial Court.
  • Appellants will not leave the country without the prior permission of the Trial Court.
  • Appellants will report to the jurisdictional Station House Officer of the Police Station where they reside on the first Monday of every month between 10.00 AM to 5.00 PM for marking their presence.
  • Appellants will submit their residential address and the mobile phones used by them and in case of change, the same will be intimated to the learned Trial Court by way of an affidavit.
  • Mobile phones used by the appellants will be kept in active mode and the appellants will share the live locations of their mobile phones with the Investigating Officers for the next six months.

In view of the above, appeals were disposed of. [Vaibhav Sampat More v. National Investigation Agency, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 1705, decided on 3-6-2022]

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