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SC quashes HC order granting bail to Gopal

New Delhi Sept. 26. The Supreme Court today quashed a Madras High Court order granting bail to R.R. Gopal, editor, Nakkeeran, detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

A Bench comprising Justice S.N. Variava and Justice H.K. Sema allowed an appeal filed by the Tamil Nadu Government challenging the September 19 court order. Though he was granted bail, Mr. Gopal continued to remain in prison, as, during pendency of the appeal, the apex court ordered status quo on his release.

The Bench said the High Court relied on alleged discrepancies in the description of a weapon, allegedly seized from Mr. Gopal.

It noted that the articles recovered from him at the time of his arrest on April 11 were sent to the POTA special court and were in its custody. Further, the first of the documents relied on by the High Court were in Tamil and the other documents in English.

Some police officer translated the documents into English and if he wrongly translated the type of weapon, it could not be concluded with any reasonable certainty that there was no recovery, it said.

"It is to be seen that under Section 4 of the POTA, mere possession of not just arms but also of an ammunition is sufficient. Ammunition has also been allegedly recovered. There is no discrepancy in the description of the ammunition. At this stage, it is difficult to sustain the finding of the High Court that due to the discrepancies in the description of weapon, the non-existence of recovery was so probable that the court could act on the supposition that the recovery did not exist," the Bench said.

Further, the statements (made by Mr. Gopal that the police may stage-manage a recovery through coercion), relied upon by the High Court were given after he was arrested and recoveries from him on April 11 were made after the charge under the POTA had been added on April 16.

"It is not unknown whether persons, who are charged or arrested, make self-serving statements before the magistrate with the intention of using them in court proceedings at a later stage. Therefore, at this stage, it would not be possible to conclude that no discovery was made by the police."

The judges also found fault with the High Court accepting Mr. Gopal's allegations that as an investigating journalist he exposed the present Chief Minister and senior police officials, that this was not liked by the people in power and that he was falsely implicated.

At the stage of granting bail "the court does not decide on the merits of the matter. However, such a prima facie must be based on very cogent material".

The Bench further said the contention of the Tamil Nadu Government that Mr. Gopal had nexus with the forest brigand, Veerappan, and that he would abscond if released on bail had not been considered by the High Court.

The contention that he would tamper with evidence or witnesses had also not been adverted to by the High Court, it said.

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