Delhi HC calls for swift disposal of UAPA trials

Published - December 18, 2021 01:54 am IST - New Delhi

Calling for a swift trial of cases where the accused are charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Delhi High Court on Friday sought its administration’s stand to streamline expeditious disposal of trials in such cases before the special designated courts here.

Justice Mukta Gupta said “it is for the High Court to decide whether to transfer the cases (from the special designated courts to other courts) or have more courts”. She was hearing a petition by an alleged Indian Mujahideen operative, who was arrested in 2013, seeking day-to-day hearing.

The High Court observed that the cases under UAPA involved serious offences and foreign nationals, and it was not easy for those in custody to secure bail.

“...Thus it is paramount that offences under UAPA, whether investigated by NIA (National Investigation Agency)or Delhi Police special cell, are tried by special designated courts expeditiously which have no other matters listed before it,” the High Court stated.

The HC was informed that there are two designated special courts for NIA in Delhi and listing of non-UAPA cases had no impact on the status of UAPA cases. As of September this year, there are 37 cases of NIA Act pending in the two designated special courts for NIA in the Patiala House Court complex here.

The High Court was hearing a petition by Manzar Imam, through advocates Kartik Murukutla and Abu Bakr Sabbaq, stating that he has been in custody for eight years and there was a delay in the trial in his case on account of there being only two designated courts which were also hearing non-NIA cases.

The petition stated that all NIA accused were “languishing for years on end” in violation of the fundamental right to a speedy trial under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Imam was arrested in August 2013 pursuant to an NIA case alleging that he in association with the other IM sleeper cells based in the country and others, were conspiring to commit terrorist acts and making preparation for targeting various important and prominent places of India.

“The petitioner has to date been in custody for almost eight years and charges are yet to be framed in the matter. Arguments on charge in the matter began in 2014 itself, but continue to remain pending to date. At the current pace, and with 24 accused persons, it may be fairly anticipated that the trial is likely to take at least another further eight years (as a moderate estimation) before completion,” the plea has stated.

The NIA had stated that after filing charge sheets in the case, the prosecution has argued for eight times on the charges between August 2014 and March 2020, “but unfortunately the presiding officers of the Trial Court were transferred from their office before completion of arguments on charge and therefore, the charge argument starts afresh before every new incumbent judge”.

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