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Supreme Court adjourns hearing on plea seeking interpretation of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act

Petitioner questions the competence of Chief Judicial Magistrate on extension of time in case under UAPA

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The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned hearing till July 15 on a petition involving the interpretation of Section 43D of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, stating that the matter should be heard by a larger Bench.

The three-Judge Bench of Justices U.U. Lalit, Ajay Rastogi and Aniruddha Bose passed the order on a petition urging to consider whether the extension of time can only be granted by a Special or Sessions Court, or does a Chief Judicial Magistrate also has any competence (default bail under UAPA).

The petitioner said that expression ‘Court’ appearing in Section 43D of UAPA is to be seen in the light of definition of ‘Court’ as in Section 2(1)(d) of the UAPA Act and as such, the Chief Judicial Magistrate who dealt with the instant matter, was not competent to grant extension of time under Section 43D of UAPA.

The Court Additional requested Solicitor General S.V. Raju to assist in the matter.

Justice Lalit said, “There are two issues. Extension has been granted by the Chief Judicial Magistrate. If a report is made now and order is passed, then the period originally contemplated by 167, will be extended to 180 days. That extension is allowable if an order is passed by the Court. Can this Court be the Magistrate’s court which has issued the remand or does it have to be the Special Court? This is the first issue. They have relied upon Bikramjit Singh. It will boil down to a fact that rather than the CJM taking burden of remand, the person will be produced before the Special Court and thereby, burdening itself with mundane issues.”

In response to the questions, the ASG submitted that the answer could be found under Section 167 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which had been modified by Section 43D. Further, he submitted that the modification did not touch upon the committing Magistrate competent to try the case.

The Bench, at this juncture, noted that the submission ran counter to the Bikramjit Singh judgement. The ASG replied that some aspects of Bikramjit Singh verdict might need reconsideration.

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Justice Lalit observed that this matter stands on a different footing, therefore, a larger Bench will have to hear this because Bikramjit Singh was heard by a three-Judge Bench.

“List this matter for further consideration on next Thursday,” the Court ordered.

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