The Supreme Court has permitted Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) general secretary Vaiko and eight other partymen to approach the Madras High Court against a trial court’s order refusing to accept an application filed by the public prosecutor to withdraw Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) cases against them.

The Central POTA Review Committee had held that there was no prima facie case for proceeding against Mr. Vaiko and others under the Act for the speeches they made at a public meeting at Tirumangalam, near Madurai, in June 2002. Mr. Vaiko and the others had moved the Madras High Court for a direction to the government to implement the panel’s order. The State government too had challenged the committee’s order.The High Court, while upholding the review panel’s decision, declined to stay the trial. On appeal, the apex court in October 2004 stayed the trial and permitted Mr. Vaiko and the others to challenge the POTA court order and since then the matter was pending adjudication.

Even as the appeal was pending, the apex court, on a similar appeal arising out of a decision from Gujarat High Court, held: “Once the review committee, under Section 2 (3) of the POTA repealing Act, expresses the opinion that there is no prima facie case for proceeding against the accused, in cases in which cognisance has been taken by the court, such cases shall be deemed to have been withdrawn. The only role of the Public Prosecutor in the matter is to bring to the notice of the court the direction of the review committee. The court on satisfying itself as to whether such an opinion was rendered, will have to record that the case stands withdrawn by virtue of Section 2 (3) of the repealing Act. The court will not examine the correctness or propriety of the opinion... in regard to such an opinion of the review committee.”

In view of this decision, Mr. Vaiko sought withdrawal of the pending appeal to enable him to move the High Court questioning the correctness of the trial court’s order refusing to withdraw the case.

A Bench of Justices Ranjana Desai and Madan B. Lokur after hearing V. Ramasubramaniam, counsel for Mr. Vaiko, permitted withdrawal of the appeal. It said: “If such an appeal is filed, we request the Madras High Court to consider the application for condonation of delay sympathetically in view of the fact that the counsel for the respondent-State has no objection for condonation of delay if all contentions of the respondent-State are kept open.”

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