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Above: Boris Sobotic Mikolic (file pic)/Photo courtesy: Facebook

~By Kunal Rao

Delhi HC has quashed the detention order of a Slovenian National, Boris Sobotic Mikolic, a national level shooter and a member of National Shooting Association who was arrested from Delhi last year for his alleged involvement in a multi-crore gun-running and wildlife smuggling case.

It is pertinent to mention that this is the same case in which national-level shooter Prashant Bishnoi, a key accused in multi-crore gun-running and wildlife smuggling case was also arrested from Meerut by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) after the agency had seized 44 guns, 117kg of ‘wild’ meat and parts of protected animals from his house.

A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Justice IS Mehta set aside the detention order dated October 17, 2017 by Joint Secretariat of the Government of India, COFEPOSA Unit, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance.

According to the plea, the petitioner Mikolic left his business and apparently worked in an Austrian company engaged in the selling/production of arms, weapons and ammunitions as a manager till 2007. In 2007, he left this company as well and have opened a gun shop inside a shooting range in Maribor, which is about 25 kms away from his home town.

Initially, he sold weapons to mainly Slovenian buyers. Later as shooters came for practice from all over the world to the said shooting range, he got acquainted with many of them from various countries and this included some Indian shooters as well. The Petitioner is stated to have closed the gun shop, and begun to travel to various parts of the world as a travel agent. It is stated that the Petitioner’s wife is the only Director of the Company Mikos D.O.O., Slovenia which has been in existence since 2009 and has been managing its affairs. The company is engaged in the sale of arms and ammunition.

Gradually, two Indians Amit Goel and Anil Langan are stated to have visited Slovenia in April, 2017 and asked the petitioner to accompany them to India for touring purposes. According to the petitioner, since it was a lean business period as Slovenia had national holidays during that time, he accompanied them on a visit to India.

On April 28, 2017, they boarded a Turkish Airlines flight and reached India on April 29, 2017. After his immigration clearance, the Petitioner waited for the other two Indians since they had arms and ammunition with them and had approached the “red channel” for clearance and to complete the necessary formalities. Amit Goel was in possession of weapons and paid ad valorem duty, after the Customs officers had ascertained the description and value of the articles carried by him.

As the petitioner was about to exit along with Amit Goel, officers of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Delhi intercepted them at the exit gate of the terminal at IGI Airport and asked both the petitioner and Goel to accompany them to the preventive room. Later, Anil Kumar Langan also joined them.

The trio was detained by the DRI on the exit gate of the IGI airport despite not possessing any arms and ammunition. He also claimed that he was made to give statements as per the diktats of the DRI officers and forced to admit amongst other things that two pistols recovered from Langan were actually his and that his wife’s company had sold arms to the two Indians at lesser price and he had come here to collect the money in cash.

Following this, his bail was rejected twice and he was released on statutory bail after the lapse of 60 days. On October 13, 2017, the DRI issued showcause notice alleging that a syndicate is involved in smuggling of arms from Slovenia to India.

Subsequent to this, the detention order was passed on October 17, 2017 for four people, including Goel, Langan and Vishnoi. Following this, he filed a detailed representation but since there was no reply, he moved the Delhi High court seeking to quash the detention orders.

In a reply to this plea, the DRI claimed that Mikolic was not co-operating in the probe. They also contended that the petitioner is one of the largest suppliers of small arms to Indian shooters and that one baggage of Goel was found tagged in Mikolic’s name while they were travelling to India.

The court, however, held that if Mikolic was refusing in co-operating in the investigation, the agency should have filed an application for cancellation of bail. It also noted that he appeared before the adjudicating authority along with his advocate on October 24, 2017.

“There was, therefore, no ground for apprehension that the petitioner was evading the process of law,” the court said.

Diwakar counsel for the centre referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in Subhash Popatlal Dave v. Union of India (2014) 1 SCC 280 and in particular to the observations in para 46 of the said judgment that “those who have evaded the process of law shall not be heard by the Supreme Court to say that their fundamental rights are in jeopardy”. He said that the petitioner cannot be permitted to take the advantage of his own conduct and with him having deliberately evaded the service of the detention order, he should not be granted any discretionary relief or indulgence by the Court. Reference was also made to a decision in Additional Secretary to the Government of India v. Smt.Alka Subhash Gadia 1992 Supp (1) SCC 496 where the limited grounds on which high court can interfere with the detention order at the pre-execution stage has been spelt out. It is submitted that none of those conditions are satisfied in the present case. As regards the case of the other three detainees, a distinction is sought to be drawn by pointing out that in their cases they have submitted themselves to the detention orders and had undergone custody whereas the petitioner has avoided the service of the detention order upon him. Otherwise, on merits it is not disputed that the grounds of detention are common to all the four detainees including the petitioner.

The bench stated that “if on merits, the case of the petitioner is no different from that of the co-detainees and the detention orders in respect of the co-accused have not been confirmed by the Advisory Board, the court sees no purpose being served in the petitioner being detained on the basis of the detention order, the grounds of which are no different from the detention orders issued in respect of the co-detainees, which have not been confirmed by the Advisory Board”.

The court also added that the agency has failed to explain how Mikolic’s case is different from the other three and hence the “question of him having the propensity to commit a crime does not arise”.

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