Special Court under National Investigation Agency Act, Chennai: While considering the instant petition wherein the petitioner who was alleged to be a member of banned organisation People’s Front of India (PFI), sought bail under Section 437 r/w Section 439 CrPC and 43-D of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967; the Bench of K.H. Elavazhagan, J.*, noted that the objection raised by respondent that if the petitioner was released on bail, he may abscond to evade criminal justice system tamper with the evidence, are untenable one because the petitioner is a Secretary for SDPI party, if the petitioner tampers or hamper the proceedings, the respondent may file necessary petition to cancel the bail application.

Background: The petitioner is a General Secretary of Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) for Theni District. SDPI which originated in 2009 and is legally registered before the Election Commission and has its cadres throughout the country. The party has contested in several elections and its members are also holding several posts in Panchayaths, Corporations, etc.

The main allegation of respondent was that the petitioner is the member of Popular Front of India (PFI).

The respondent had registered the above case against 13 accused persons and other unknown persons for the alleged offence punishable under Sections 120(B), 153(A), 153AA of IPC and under Sections 13, 17, 18(B), 38 & 39 of UAPA Act, 1967. The petitioner was arrested on 09.05.2023 during the further investigation and remanded subsequently confined in Central Prison Puzhal, for the past 120 days.

It was contended that entire case was fabricated and is an act of political vendetta against the petitioner and that he had no role in the averments as stated in the FIR. Further, the Petitioner was unaware of the averments in the FIR and the entire allegations made in the FIR are false, fabricated, unsubstantiated and unsustainable.

The petitioner contended that it is not an offence to be a part of any legally registered movement and the respondent without application of mind and to satisfy his superiors and political parties, has arrayed the Petitioner in this false case.

Per contra, the respondents contended that the office bearers, members and cadres of Popular Front of India (PFI), a fundamentalist Islamic organization have been spreading the extremist/terrorist ideology across Tamil Nadu by establishing state headquarters. It was contended that the PFI have being indulging in militant Salafi ideology espousing extremist activities, which abhor constitutional values.

The respondent stated that while investigating the PFI, the role of the petitioner was revealed through scrutiny of digital devices, legally intercepted calls and statement of witnesses that he is a full-time worker of PFI.

Opposing the petition, the respondent argued that if the petitioner is released on bail, he may abscond to evade criminal justice system and trial proceedings, he may hamper the ongoing investigation and tamper with the evidence, he may influence and threaten the witnesses and he may again indulge in the same offence.

Issues: While deliberating over the petition, the Court had to consider that whether there is a reasonable ground for believing the accusation made against petitioner is prima facie true so as to attract Chapter IV and VI of UAPA, 1967; whether the petitioner is let on bail may cause tamper the witnesses or abscond; whether the bail application can be allowed

Court’s Assessment: Perusing the facts and contentions raised in the case, the Court analysed the afore-stated issues for consideration.

Taking note of the statements recorded by the witnesses, final report and details in the case diary, the Court pointed out that The PFI was banned as unlawful association on 27-09.2022 and all the witnesses concerned have stated that the petitioner was associated with PFI prior to its ban.

The Court further took note of the petitioner’s reliance on M. Mohd. Abbas v. State, 2023 SCC OnLine Mad 5061, wherein the Division Bench of the Madras High Court had delved into the relevant provisions of the UAPA Act in a detailed manner and had stated that the prosecution has to show that there is prima facie material available to negative the bail plea and the activities committed by the Petitioner would attract Section 43D(5) and proviso. It was noted that the Division Bench had allowed the bail application of the accused and the same was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Considering the facts of the instant case, the Court was of the view that decision rendered in M. Mohd. Abbas (supra) was squarely applicable on the petitioner in the instant case.

With the afore-stated assessment, the Court granted conditional bail to the petitioner.

[Sathik Ali v. Union of India, Crl. M.P. No . 1790/2023, decided on 09-10-2023]

*Order by Justice K.H. Elavazhagan

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the petitioner- Mr. A. Raja Mohamed, Mr. A. Yousuff Imran, Mr. A.O. Mohamed Sharbudeen, Mr. N. Mohammed Ismail and Mr. P. Samson

For the respondent- Mr. N. Baskaran, Special Public Prosecutor for NIA cases

Also Read- Madras HC issues notice to NIA over filing petition seeking extension of remand order under UAPA at the “eleventh hour”

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