The Supreme Court held that magistrates would not be competent to extend the time to complete investigations in UAPA cases.
The only competent authority to consider such request would be "the Court" as specified in the proviso in Section 43-D (2)(b) of the UAPA, the bench of Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Belam M Trivedi held
In this case, Chief Judicial Magistrate, Bhopal had granted extension sought in an application moved by the Investigating Machinery under Section 43-D(2)(b) of the UAPA. Also, the accused's application seeking bail on the ground that no charge-sheet was filed by the Investigating Agency within 90 days was dismissed. The High Court upheld these orders observing that since the CJM, Bhopal had passed an appropriate order, the period available for the Investigating Machinery to complete the investigation stood extended to 180 days and as such the applications preferred by the appellants under Section 167(2) of the Code were not maintainable.
Before the Apex Court, representing the accused, Senior Advocate Siddhartha Dave, relied on the decision in Bikramjit Singh vs. State of Punjab (2020) 10 SCC 616 to contend that the extension granted in the instant case by CJM, Bhopal was beyond jurisdiction and would, therefore, be of no consequence.
In Bikramjit, the Supreme Court observed that all offences under the UAPA, whether investigated by the National Investigation Agency or by the investigating agencies of the State Government, are to be tried exclusively by Special Courts set up under the NIA Act. The three judge bench headed by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman observed that the Special Court alone had jurisdiction to extend time to 180 days under the first proviso in Section 43-D(2)(b) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The bench, taking note of the said judgment observed as follows:
After considering various provisions of the relevant statues, it was concluded that "so far as all offences under the UAPA are concerned, the Magistrate's jurisdiction to extend time under the first proviso in Section 43-D (2)(b) is nonexistent". Consequently, in so far as "Extension of time to complete investigation" is concerned, the Magistrate would not be competent to consider the request and the only competent authority to consider such request would be "the Court" as specified in the proviso in Section 43-D (2)(b) of the UAPA.
Holding that the accused are entitled to default bail, the court allowed the appeal.
Case: Sadique vs. State of Madhya Pradesh ; CrA 963 OF 2021
Citation: LL 2021 SC 434
Coram: Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and Belam M Trivedi
Counsel: Sr. Adv Siddhartha Dave for appellants, AOR Pashupathi Nath Razdan for respondents