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Is Gold Smuggling By Itself A 'Terrorist Act' Under UAPA? Supreme Court To Examine

Radhika Roy
13 July 2021 3:27 PM GMT
Is Gold Smuggling By Itself A Terrorist Act Under UAPA? Supreme Court To Examine
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued limited notice on the question of law and tagged the petition filed by National Investigation Agency (NIA) challenging order of the Kerala High Court wherein bail was granted to the 12 accused in the Kerala Gold Smuggling case.A Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, and Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, presided over the matter and stated...

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued limited notice on the question of law and tagged the petition filed by National Investigation Agency (NIA) challenging order of the Kerala High Court wherein bail was granted to the 12 accused in the Kerala Gold Smuggling case.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, and Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, presided over the matter and stated that they would not entertain the aspect of cancellation of bail.

In today's hearing, even though the Apex Court refrained from entertaining the prayer seeking cancellation of bail, they did agree to examine whether the offence was covered under Customs Act or whether it would fall within the definition of "terrorist act" under Section 15(1)(a)(iiia) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

"The accused are employees of the government. We will not enter into the aspect of bail cancellation. We can, however, leave the legal question open", stated the CJI.

ASG KM Nataraj, appearing for the NIA, submitted that an appeal was already pending consideration before the Supreme Court, and that the Kerala High Court had erred in not only granting bail, but had further interpreted the definition of "terrorist act" which required examination.

Accordingly, the Court has issued notice to the accused and have agreed to examine the legal aspect in the matter at hand.

The case relates to the seizure of 30 kg of 24 carat gold worth ₹14.82 crore at Thiruvananthapuram airport on July 5 2020 by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Kochi, which was sought to be brought through the diplomatic consignment sent to UAE consulate at the State capital.

The NIA had filed an appeal before the Kerala High Court against the 15 October 2020 decision of a Special NIA Court which had granted conditional bail to the accused and remarked that no prima facie material existed to showcase that the accused had any links with terror outfits.

The appeal by the NIA had been dismissed on February 18 2021 and the High Court held that the mere act of gold smuggling, which is covered under the Customs Act, will not amount to a "terrorist act" under Section 15(1)(a)(iiia) of the UAPA unless the same is done with the intention to threaten the economic security of the nation.

Section 15(1)(a)(iiia) of UAPA mentions activities with intent to threaten or likely to threaten the economic security of the country causing "damage to, the monetary stability of India by way of production or smuggling or circulation of high quality counterfeit Indian paper currency, coin or of any other material".

Interpreting this provision, the Kerala High Court had observed :

"In our view, what is made an offence under Section 15(1)(a)(iiia) of UA(P) Act is causing damage to the monetary stability of India by way of production or smuggling or circulation of high quality counterfeit Indian paper currency, coin or any other material relatable to currency or coin. "Other material" can be any material connected to counterfeit Indian paper currency or counterfeit Indian coin, like machinery or implements or high quality paper or any other material which could be used for producing or circulating fake currency or coin. Illegal acts referred to in the above provision certainly will have a direct impact on the economic security of India".

It may be recalled that another bench of the Supreme Court had also issued notice on the same question of law - whether mere gold smuggling is UAPA offence- in a case arising out of Rajasthan High Court.


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