The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to a man accused in the case of terror funding. The Court stated that for considering grant of bail under Section 43(5)D of UAPA Act, it is the bounden duty of the Court to apply its mind to examine the entire material on record for the purpose of satisfying itself, whether a prima facie case is made out against the accused or not.
A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat pronounced its decision on an appeal filed by a businessman Sudesh Kedia who has challenged the dismissal of his bail by the sessions court which was later upheld by the High Court.
He was booked under sections 120B/414/384/386/387 of the IPC, read with S.17/18/21 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 along with Sections 25(1B) (a)/26/35 of the Arms Act and Section 17(1)(2) of the Criminal Law Amendment (CLA) Act.
The allegations made in the FIR against the accused persons were that they were operatives/ functionaries of a terrorist gang TPC and they were extorting levy from coal traders, transporters, and contractors. The Central Government viewing the gravity of the offences transferred the investigation to the National Investigation Agency. According to the chargesheet, the members of the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), have been extorting money from businessmen in Amrapali and Magadh coal mining areas and they have amassed movable and immovable properties from the said money. It also alleged that they have been obstructing the smooth supply of transport of coal.
According to the chargesheet filed by the NIA, the appellant/accused was engaged in transporting coal on behalf of GVK Power and Godavari Commodities. It said, he had attended meetings with TLC leaders and had laid levy to TPC leader Akraman (A-14) CCL employees and village committee members from his current account. According to the NIA, the appellant colluded with the members of the terrorist gangs (TPC) and was party to a criminal conspiracy to raise funds for a terrorist gang. Further, it alleged that an amount of Rs 9,95,000/- was seized from his residential premises.
The Apex Court noted, “Section 43-D (5) mandates that a person shall not be released on bail if the court is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusations made are prima facie true.” The Court further noted that in the case of National Investigation Agency v. Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, it has considered the parameters for exercise of the power under Section 43 (5) D.
The Court held, while considering the grant of bail under Section 43 (5) D, it is the bounden duty of the Court to apply its mind to examine the entire material on record for the purpose of satisfying itself, whether a prima facie case is made out against the accused or not.
It said, we have gone through the material on record and are satisfied that the Appellant is entitled to bail and that the Special Court and High Court erred in not granting bail to the Appellant for the following reasons:
(A) A close scrutiny of the material placed before the Court would clearly show that the main accusation against the Appellant is that he paid levy/extortion amount to the terrorist organization. Payment of extortion money does not amount to terror funding. It is clear from the supplementary charge-sheet and the other material on record that other accused who are members of the terrorist organization have been systematically collecting extortion amounts from businessmen in Amrapali and Magadh areas. The Appellant is carrying on transport business in the area of operation of the organization. It is alleged in the second supplementary charge- sheet that the Appellant paid money to the members of the TPC for the smooth running of his business. Prima facie, it cannot be said that the Appellant conspired with the other members of the TPC and raised funds to promote the organization.
(B) Another factor taken into account by the Special Court and the High Court relates to the allegation of the Appellant meeting the members of the terror organization. It has been held by the High Court that the Appellant has been in constant touch with the other accused. The Appellant has revealed in his statement recorded under Section 164 Cr.PC that he was summoned to meet A-14 and the other members of the organization in connection with the payments made by him. Prima facie, we are not satisfied that a case of conspiracy has been made out at this stage only on the ground that the Appellant met the members of the organization.
(C) An amount of Rs. 9,95,000/- (Rupees Nine Lakh and Ninety-Five Thousand only) was seized from the house of the Appellant which was accounted for by the Appellant who stated that the amount was withdrawn from the bank to pay salaries to his employees and other expenses. We do not agree with the prosecution that the amount is terror fund. At this stage, it cannot be said that the amount seized from the Appellant is proceeds from terrorist activity. There is no allegation that Appellant was receiving any money. On the other hand, the Appellant is accused of providing money to the members of TPC.
The Court has further noted, “After a detailed examination of the contentions of the parties and scrutiny of the material on record, we are not satisfied that a prima facie case has been made out against the Appellant relating to the offences alleged against him. We make it clear that these findings are restricted only for the purpose of grant of bail to the Appellant and the trial court shall not be influenced by these observations during the trial.”
Read the Judgement here;