A Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice C. Nagappan acquitted all the 11 accused for the 1993 Surat bomb blast, which claimed the life of a school girl and injured several others. The apex court reversed the 2008 TADA Court judgment which had convicted them and awarded them with imprisonment varying from 10 to 20 years.
It was submitted by the prosecution that the genesis of the two incidents mentioned above lay in the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6th December, 1992 at Ayodhaya which had led to wide-spread communal riots in several parts of the country. It was alleged that after losing faith in the Government’s ability to protect their community and also to retaliate against majority community, the accused persons had hatched the conspiracy.
The appellant had contended that the trial of the convicted was vitiated due to breach of mandatory provisions of Section 20-A (1) of The Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). This provision requires approval of District Superintendent of Police for recording of any information about the commission of an offence punishable under the said Act. No such approval was, however, sought. The permission instead was obtained by Additional Chief Secretary, Home Department, Government of Gujarat. The prescribed procedure, as it was contended, was not followed.
According to State of Gujarat, there was no requirement of prior approval for recording information about the commission of offences under TADA inasmuch as the first information reports about the two incidents were registered on 28th January, 1993 and 22nd April, 1993 whereas Section 20-A (1) was inserted in the Act subsequently on 22nd May, 1993.
The Court rejected the arguments and held’ ” permitting exercise of the power by any other authority whether superior or inferior to the authority designated by the Statute will have the effect of re-writing the provision and defeating the legislature purpose behind the same - a course that is legally impermissible….Exercise of that power by anyone other than the designated authority viz. the District Superintendent of Police would amount to such other authority clutching at the jurisdiction of the designated officer, no matter such officer or authority purporting to exercise that power is superior in rank and position to the officer authorized by law to take the decision…because if the Statute provides for a thing to be done in a particular manner, then it must be done in that manner alone. All other modes or methods of doing that thing must be deemed to have been prohibited”.
The Court held that the requirement of a mandatory statutory provision having been violated, the trial and conviction of the petitioners for offences under the TADA must be held to have been vitiated on that account.
When called upon to show evidence that could warrant conviction of the appellants independent of provisions of TADA and the confessional statements of the accused allegedly recorded under the said provisions, Mr. Yashank Adhyaru fairly conceded that while there may be evidence regarding recovery of some of the weapons the same would not by itself be sufficient to justify the conviction of the appellants.
TADA has been infamous for being grossly misused and abused by the authorities as well as security agencies throughout the country. Thousands are still languishing under this act in numerous jails across the country, most of them without appearing before the court even once. This verdict would come as a shock to the Gujarat Government which had appealed for enhancement of punishment of some of the accused and had also challenged the acquittal of some of the accused.
Former Gujarat minister Mohammed Surti of the Congress party had also been convicted and sentenced to 20 years in jail for his involvement in blasts.
In April 1993, two bombs shook the city, one at the Surat railway station and the other near a school on Varacha Road. The accused were suspected to have transported bombs and other ammunition through Government vehicles.
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