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Appeal U/S 21 NIA Act Not Maintainable Against Order Framing Charges: Meghalaya High Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
1 Oct 2022 7:45 AM GMT
Appeal U/S 21 NIA Act Not Maintainable Against Order Framing Charges: Meghalaya High Court
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The Meghalaya High Court has held that an order framing charges under stringent provisions of UAPA cannot be challenged in appeal under Section 21 of the National Investigation Agency Act.A bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W. Diengdoh observed that the scheme of the NIA Act envisages speedy process of trial and finality of action. Thus, the appeal provision in Section 21 of...

The Meghalaya High Court has held that an order framing charges under stringent provisions of UAPA cannot be challenged in appeal under Section 21 of the National Investigation Agency Act.

A bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W. Diengdoh observed that the scheme of the NIA Act envisages speedy process of trial and finality of action. Thus, the appeal provision in Section 21 of the NIA Act must be read exactly as it says and a broader interpretation thereof that would stretch the process would not be permissible.

In the same breath, the bench made it clear that a genuine accused, aggrieved by the "mindless" framing of charges in a matter falling under the NIA Act or the continuation of such proceedings without jurisdiction, would not be left without a remedy.

"Even though an appeal may not lie from an order framing charges in a matter covered by the NIA Act, when a charge is framed without the charge-sheet indicating the ingredients of any offence or when an obvious jurisdictional lacuna is disregarded despite an objection raised, the High Court may be approached in its jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Code or under its plenary authority of superintendence conferred by Article 227 of the Constitution."

Dimchuingam Ruangmei had moved an appeal under Section 21 of NIA Act against an order by which the trial court framed charges against him, inter alia, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The appellant submitted that there was no material before the designated Special Court to frame any charge against him.

The NIA, however, insisted that the appeal is not maintainable. It argued that an appeal under section 21 of NIA can lie from a judgement that has finality, and the mere framing of charges would not be amenable to appeal.

The Appellant on the other hand heavily relied on Supreme Court's Madhu Limaye judgment where the Supreme Court observed that universal application of the principle that what is not a final order must be an interlocutory order is neither warranted nor justified.

"The real intention of the Legislature was not to equate the expression "interlocutory order" as invariably being converse of the words "final order". There may be an order passed during the course of a proceeding which may not be final, but, yet it may not be an interlocutory order – pure or simple. Some kinds of order may fall in between the two. By a rule of harmonious construction, we think that the bar in sub-section (2) of Section 397 is not meant to be attracted to such kinds of intermediate orders," the Top Court had held.

The High Court however held that the precedent will not apply in cases pertaining to NIA Act. It observed, "NIA Act does not cover the entire gamut of offences as in the Penal Code for any interpretation thereof to be dependent on the convenience of the parties to the everyday criminal proceedings as was the underlying consideration in the general situation under the Code and weighed with the majority in Madhu Limaye."

With regard to authority of the High Court regarding appeal under section 21 of NIA, the court opined that it is limited to examining whether there has been application of mind in the impugned order. The perusal of impugned order gives sufficient room for suspicion that the accused herein may have committed the offence for which he has been charged, said the Court.

"On the basis of the material that was before the trial court in this case by way of the charge-sheet, it cannot be said that the trial court acted as a mere post-office while framing the charges or that there was no material at all for the trial court to harbour a reasonable suspicion that the relevant accused may have been a part of the conspiracy. It is just as possible that there may not be enough evidence to prove the charge of conspiracy or any other charge beyond reasonable doubt at the stage of the trial; but that is an altogether different kettle of fish." Court said

In this view, the petition was dismissed.

Case Title: Dimchuingam Ruangmei Vs. The National Investigation Agency

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Meg) 40

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment 


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