The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to examine whether UAPA, a stringent anti-terror law, is applicable in gold smuggling cases, in the backdrop of conflicting rulings by two high courts.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana agreed to examine the issue, in view of applications filed by the Centre and the NIA, stating that UAPA is applicable in gold smuggling cases. However, the top court declined to cancel the bail granted to 12 accused in the controversial case pertaining to smuggling of gold through diplomatic baggage from UAE to Thiruvananthapuram. Notice has been sent to all the 12 accused who were granted bail.
The Centre and the NIA, before the top court, pointed out at confusion arising out of the rulings of two high courts - Rajasthan and Kerala - which arrived at diametrically opposite conclusions.
In February this year, the Kerala High Court, while granting bail to the 12 accused, had observed that gold smuggling does not come under the purview of terrorism. “We are unable to hold that smuggling of gold simpliciter will fall within Section 15(1)(a) (iiia) of UA(P) Act”, the high court had said.
The court added that gold smuggling, clearly covered by the provisions of the Customs Act, will not fall within the definition of terrorist act in Section 15 of UA(P) Act unless evidence is brought out to show that it is done with the intent to threaten, or it is likely to threaten the economic security or monetary stability of India.
On the contrary, the Rajasthan High Court in February, had ruled that a gold smuggler prosecuted under Customs Act could also be prosecuted under UAPA. The high court had refused to quash the FIR registered by the NIA under the offences of UAPA.
Mohammad Aslam, the petitioner in the matter, was caught at Jaipur International Airport for smuggling over 1.5 Kg gold. The high court rejected Aslam’s plea contending that registering the case under UAPA would amount to “double jeopardy”, as he was already facing prosecution under the Customs Act.
The high court had noted that smuggling gold with the intent to threaten the economic security of the country can be termed as a “terrorist act” under UAPA. Aslam had moved the top court, seeking stay of investigation and the proceedings connected with FIR, which was registered by NIA under provisions of the UAPA. In March, a bench headed by Justice R.F. Nariman issued notice on his plea.