Sanatan Sanstha Not Declared Banned Or Terrorist Organization Under UAPA: Bombay High Court
Sanatan Sanstha has not been declared a banned or terrorist organization under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004, the Bombay High Court recently observed.A division bench of Justice Sunil B Shukre and Justice Kamal Khata granted bail to two members of the Sanstha in the Sunburn Terror Attack Conspiracy 2017 and Nallasopara Arms Haul Case 2018.“The most intriguing part...
Sanatan Sanstha has not been declared a banned or terrorist organization under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004, the Bombay High Court recently observed.
A division bench of Justice Sunil B Shukre and Justice Kamal Khata granted bail to two members of the Sanstha in the Sunburn Terror Attack Conspiracy 2017 and Nallasopara Arms Haul Case 2018.
“The most intriguing part of this case is that ‘Sanatan Sanstha’ is an organization which has not been declared to be a banned or terrorist organization or a frontal organization of any banned terrorist group within the meaning and contemplation of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004”, the court said.
The court said that the prosecution’s evidence was “disappointing” and there was no prima facie evidence against the accused.
Appellant Liladhar Lodhi is accused of being part of a failed conspiracy to attack the Sunburn Festival, 2017. Pratap Hajra is an accused in the Nallasopara case wherein explosives were seized from the house of one Vaibhav Raut.
They are members of an organisation named “Sanatan Sanstha” whose object is to form a Hindu Rashtra through a terrorist group in Maharashtra and adjoining States, according to the prosecution.
Prosecution alleged that Lodhi prepared or collected crude bombs and was trained in camps organised to train members of the Sanstha in handling explosives and using firearms. Further, the Sanstha members intended to prevent the Sunburn Festival 2017 and screening of movies they perceive to be against the tenets of Hinduism, the prosecution alleged.
The appellants are charged under relevant sections of the UAPA, Explosive Substances Act, Explosives Act, Arms Act, Maharashtra Police Act and IPC.
The prosecution claimed that statements of co-accused sufficiently indicate Lodhi’s involvement in the offences.
The court said that there is no prima facie evidence showing that the three crude bombs found from the appellant’s ancestral house belonged to him as he is not the owner of the house.
The court said that the incriminating articles found in the house cannot be attributed to the appellant alone. The court noted that the possibility of ownership of said articles by other persons has not been ruled out in this case.
“Once, it is found that the house from where some incriminating articles have been recovered during the house search is not solely owned by the accused like the appellant, then such a recovery cannot be attributed to the accused like appellant alone, unless possibility of ownership of the property found during house search by others is ruled out”, the court held.
The court further said that the prosecution has not brought any physical evidence of existence of training camps for the members in handling explosives.
The court noted that according to its official website, Sanatan Sanstha is a registered charitable trust which conducts activities such as spreading of spirituality in the society, organising free lectures and guiding camps etc.
Therefore, the court concluded that the statement of a co-accused is not prima facie correct from the other material available on record.
According to the prosecution, call records of a mobile and SIM seized from Hajra show that he is well connected to the prime accused Sudhanwa Sudhir Gondhlekar. Hajra frequently visited Gondhlekar’s office and participate in discussions regarding preparation of bombs, use of explosives to commit terrorist activities, the prosecution has alleged.
The court said that there is no prima facie evidence that the SIM is issued in Hajra’s name. The court noted that it was found in his possession in 2020 while the alleged conspiracy to destabilize India started in 2017.
The call records show that the mobile and mobile number was around the office of prime accused during that period but evidence of ownership by Hajra during that period is absent, the court said. The court said that in 2017, somebody else may have had the mobile and SIM.
Thus, both accused were granted bail on a PR bond of Rs. 50,000/-.
Case Title – Liladhar @ Vijay Lodhi v. State of Maharashtra and Pratap Judhisthir Hajra v. State of Maharashtra
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Bom) 157