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Invoking S.15 UAPA For Acts 'Likely To Strike Terror' Even In Absence Of Intention Justifiable: Karnataka High Court In Police Station Riot Case

Mustafa Plumber
5 Oct 2021 4:55 PM GMT
Invoking S.15 UAPA For Acts Likely To Strike Terror Even In Absence Of Intention Justifiable: Karnataka High Court In Police Station Riot Case
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The Karnataka High Court has said that if an act is likely to strike terror, then the absence of an intent to strike terror will not make the invocation of Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act unjustifiable. A division bench of Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Pradeep Singh Yerur said,"It would emerge from sub-section (1) of Section 15 that even if the act is "likely...

The Karnataka High Court has said that if an act is likely to strike terror, then the absence of an intent to strike terror will not make the invocation of Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act unjustifiable.

A division bench of Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Pradeep Singh Yerur said,

"It would emerge from sub-section (1) of Section 15 that even if the act is "likely to strike terror", the absence of "ïntent to strike terror" will not by itself make the invocation of Section 15 unjustified."

It added,

"As such the accused cannot limit his arguments to say that he or she lacked the necessary intent to strike terror. In other words, the accused will have to go one step further and demonstrate that his actions, even if lacking any intent, does not carry any likelihood of striking terror in the minds of the people."

The court made this observation while dismissing an appeal filed by a bunch of accused seeking bail in the Bengaluru Riots case of 2020.

The petitioners had challenged the order of special court, dismissing their bail applications on the ground that the allegations made against the accused are serious in nature and the overt acts committed by each of them prima facie indicate that they form terrorist acts as defined under Sections 15 and 20 of UAP Act.

Background

According to the police, on August 11 a mob of around 300 people gathered near D.J. Halli Police Station, protesting against an allegedly derogatory comment on Prophet Mohammed, posted by one P. Naveen on his Facebook page. An FIR was lodged on the basis of a complaint submitted by one Firdous Pasha, for offences under Section 295-A and 153 of the Indian Penal Code.

Despite the registration of the FIR and the best efforts of the police to pacify the crowd, the mob that had gathered outside the Police Station refused to disperse and only increased in numbers. They then proceeded to gather outside the residence of Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy, who is an MLA, from Pulikeshi Nagar constituency and caused extensive damage to his house and property.

The mob was then joined by a large number of miscreants from adjoining areas and they began to set fire to police vehicles and attacked police personnel of D.J. Halli and K.G. Halli Police Stations, by throwing stones at the building and attacking them with deadly weapons. Later, the mob resorted to arson and set fire to the basement of the D.J. Halli Police Station building and destroyed Government properties located within the premises of the Police Station.

More than 80 police personnel were injured in the violence. The mob also burnt private vehicles and property, caused extensive damage to buildings of private and commercial establishments, and also looted them. A total of 64 criminal cases have been registered so far and investigation is under process. Over 300 people have been arrested in the case.

Arguments

Senior Advocate Ashok Haranahalli appearing for the accused had argued "Under Section 15(1) of UAP Act, the essential element which requires to be proved is "intention to strike terror" in the mind of people or section of the people; that accusations made against appellants even if taken on their face value do not constitute a terrorist act as defined under Section 15 of UAP Act."

Hence, contending that grounds raised by the appellant in this regard is to be accepted and based on the conventional tripod test (flight risk, influencing witnesses and tampering with evidence), without applying the special limitations found under Section 43D(5) of UAP Act, bail applications of appellants will have to be allowed.

Further, he submitted that acts of the appellants cannot be read in isolation in the context of the Facebook post made by Naveen whereunder he had posted derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammad by hurting the religious sentiments of Muslim community; the refusal of police to take speedy action on the complaint discloses intention of the persons who had gathered near the police station for insisting the registration of their protest in a peaceful manner against said derogatory post and there was no intention or pre-meditation to inflict violence of any sort.

It was added, "Peaceful gathering having assembled to register their protest have subsequently became unruly and same cannot be described as a terrorist act and provisions of Indian Penal Code would encompass the offence committed by the appellants even if any and invocation of the provisions of UAP Act against appellants-1 to 25 smacks of malafides and discriminatory attitude on the part of Investigating Agency."

It was also claimed that there was no death which had occurred pursuance to the alleged terrorist acts and even assuming for the moment appellants are convicted, they can be sentenced to minimum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and maximum imprisonment for life and as such. Therefore, the accused sought that a lenient view be taken and appellants be enlarged on bail.

Special Public Prosecutor P Prasanna Kumar appearing for National Investigation Agency (NIA) said "Under Section 43D(5) UAP Act, the court will have to decide if accusations made against accused persons are based on the reading of 'Case Diary' and 'final report' and court would refrain from looking beyond the said material. As what would suffice for arriving at a prima facie satisfaction."

Further, he said, "Actions of the appellants qualifies as 'terrorist act' under Section 15(1)(a)(ii) & (iv) of UAP Act since their actions of using highly inflammable substances to cause large destruction of property reflected an 'intent to strike terror among the people or section of the people'."

Court Findings:

Firstly the court endeavoured to discern the term "intent to strike terror" in the people from an ordinary crime affecting "public order" from an act of terror having more serious ramifications and to understand the same separately. Relying on series of Supreme Court judgements the court said,

"Thus, from the above authoritative principles of law, it can be summarised as under:

(1) There is no particular form or means only by which a state of terror can be struck in the minds of people.

(2) The purpose of the terrorist act is to evoke a sense of "fear psychosis" and "insecurity" among general populace of a law-abiding society.

(3) There is no specific target or set of identifiable targets intended to be attacked; the target audience is unknown persons part of a larger collective of society.

(4) Through their intended acts, such persons should indulge in "terrorist act" with an aim to achieve the dual object of a single action. First is to inflict or effect physical violence on certain targets which may involve causing death or injury to persons or damage/destruction of property and other like events. The second objective is what characteristically sets apart a terrorist act from mere law and order or public order concerns.

(5) Such persons who indulge in these acts, aim to send out a larger intimidating message to those not directly impacted by the physical violence.

(6) damage that would be caused by the perpetration of such acts affects the "psychological balance" of the victim and it has a direct impact on their future actions or in other words, the threat of future violence looms over their minds perpetually.

(7) By their intended activity, the offender attempts to create fear and panic amongst people in general or a section thereof."

The court then said, "The test for rejection of bail will be sufficiently met if the prosecution can, prima-facie, establish a commission of the terrorist act." It then perused the individual records of the accused before the court.

It then opined,

"A plain reading of Section 18 of UAP Act would clearly indicate that it would take within its sweep or fold persons who abet, incite, knowingly facilitates the commission of terrorist act. Thus, while evaluating the specific roles and overt acts of the appellants, necessarily, Section 18 of UAP Act will have to be kept in mind along with Section 15 of the UAP Act."

Further it said, "The investigation material on hand reveals that petrol bottles were used while attacking police personnel and the police station and such material being highly inflammable substance would prima-facie attract the provisions of Section 15 of UAP Act. The overt acts noted above would clearly indicate the actions of the accused persons in forming a violent mob in front of the police station, attacking the police station and police personnel using lethal weapons such as clubs, rods, usage of petrol bottles and indulging in arson indicates that entire action was done with an intention to strike terror at the public at large."

It also observed, "The role of accused persons - appellants has been established through prosecution witnesses, statements of protected witnesses, documentary/electronic evidence and CDRs of mobile numbers used by the accused during the relevant point of time. Appellants with a common intention were part of unlawful assembly and with a common object to commit a terrorist act, destruction of public and private properties had disobeyed the promulgation of the orders issued under Section 144 Cr.P.C. In fact, in furtherance of the common objective to cause harm and destruction to the police station, they have attacked the police personnel who were on duty at the relevant date, time and place of incident. As a part of the conspiracy that was hatched with an intention to strike terror and cause fear in the mind of the public, the appellants have acted accordingly."

It added, "A perusal of the report made under Section 173 Cr.P.C and the charge sheet material, this court is of the considered view that accusations against persons are prima-facie true and proviso to Section 43D(5) is attracted to the facts on hand."

Accordingly, the court went on to dismiss the appeals and affirmed the order of the special court.

Case Title: Mr. Shaikh Muhammed Bilal v. National Investigation Agency

Case No: In Crl.A.No.585/2021

Date Of Order: 15th September, 2021

Appearance: Senior Advocate Ashok Haranahalli, A/W Advocate Usman P, Advocate Mohammed Tahir, Advocate Tanveer Ahmed For Petitioners; Special Public Prosecutor P. Prasanna Kumar, A/W Aag R. Subramanya, A.A.G A/W Advocate Thejesh, For Respondent.

Click Here To Read/ Download Judgment


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