New Delhi: The Supreme Court ruled on Monday (February 1) that even if a person is charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), they still have the fundamental right to a speedy trial and are eligible for bail if this right is violated.
Justices N.V. Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose held that when there is no likelihood of the trial being completed soon, and a large part of the maximum sentence has already been served as an undertrial, the rigours of the UAPA provisions melt down, according to LiveLaw.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had appealed the Kerala high court’s decision to grant bail to the men accused of chopping off a college professor’s palm in 2010. However, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, saying that since the high court had used the long incarceration period as logic for granting bail, the order stood on firm ground.
“The presence of statutory restrictions like Section 43D (5) of UAPA per se does not oust the ability of Constitutional Courts to grant bail on grounds of violation of Part III of the Constitution. Indeed, both the restrictions under a Statue as well as the powers exercisable under Constitutional Jurisdiction can be well harmonised. Whereas at commencement of proceedings, Courts are expected to appreciate the legislative policy against grant of bail but the rigours of such provisions will melt down where there is no likelihood of trial being completed within a reasonable time and the period of incarceration already undergone has exceeded a substantial part of the prescribed sentence. Such an approach would safeguard against the possibility of provisions like Section 43D (5) of UAPA being used as the sole metric for denial of bail or for wholesale breach of constitutional right to speedy trial,” the bench said.
The section being quoted, Section 43D (5) of the UAPA, states, “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code, no person accused of an offence punishable under Chapters IV and VI of this Act shall, if in custody, be released on bail or on his own bond unless the Public Prosecutor has been given an opportunity of being heard on the application for such release: Provided that such accused person shall not be released on bail or on his own bond if the Court, on a perusal of the case diary or the report made under section 173 of the Code is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such person is prima facie true.”