While allowing regular bail to two men booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for possessing fake currency notes, the Delhi High Court observed that the men had been in custody for over six years despite orders of the court to conclude the trial within a year.
A division bench of Justice Mukta Gupta and Justice Poonam A Bamba in its February 17 decision considered that the two men – Moti Lal Basak and Vikas Kumar Sharma – had been in custody for nearly six-and-a-half years. The bench noted that despite the directions of the high court to conclude the trial within a year from May 5, 2022, in the past eight months only a few further witnesses have been examined and 18 witnesses were still left to be examined.
The court further observed that the 12 witnesses, which had been examined, were to be recalled for cross-examination by the two other accused, and considering the minimum sentence prescribed for an offence under Section 15 (1) (a) (iii a) UAPA being 5 years imprisonment, the court deemed fit “to grant regular bail to the petitioners pending trial”.
The provision speaks of a terrorist act involving 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.
“Further, considering the fact that the main accused have neither been arrested, nor charge-sheeted, nor charge under…UAPA framed against them and the period of custody undergone, there have been unexplained delays in filing the supplementary charge-sheets, we are of the considered view that rigors of Section 43(D)(5) UAPA will not come in the way of the petitioners being entitled to bail,” the HC said.
This provision states that bail will not be granted to a person accused of offences under certain chapters of the UAPA unless the public prosecutor is heard on the accused’s bail plea. The provision further states that the accused will not be given bail if the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that a “prima facie” case exists against the accused.
Apart from UAPA, Basak, and Sharma have been booked under IPC, Sections 489b (using as genuine forged currency notes), 489 c (possession of forged currency notes) and criminal conspiracy Section 120B. They have been in custody since June 19, 2016, and to date the trial has not concluded.
It is the prosecution’s case that both the accused were part of a syndicate operating from Patiala jail in conspiracy with three other men – Manga Singh, Vishnu and Baljinder Singh. It was contended that the Call Detail Record shows connectivity between all the accused.
The court noted that the First Information Report (FIR) is based on an interceptive conversation between Manga Singh with Baljinder Singh and Vishnu. The two petitioners were apprehended at Delhi’s Anand Vihar Metro Station on the basis of the interception and a recovery of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh fake currency notes.
The court noted that Vishnu had not been apprehended till date; Manga Singh was interrogated, but not formally arrested; and Baljinder who was also interrogated was never formally arrested.
The court noted that there was a delay in the continued detention of the petitioners Moti Lal Basak and Vikas Kumar Sharma due to the “delay in filing of supplementary chargesheet” investigating the role of Baljinder and Manga.