Punjab & Haryana HC orders 'application of mind' in adding UAPA chargestext_fields
The Punjab and Haryana High Court stated on Tuesday, according to Live Law, that the "non-application of mind" in adding Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA, charges in a case needed to be controlled.
The High Court granted bail to Pankaj Rajput and Chetan Sehdev, two individuals accused of attempting murder in 2022, and directed that the abuse of the anti-terror law be curbed.
The men were allegedly part of a group that was consuming alcohol in front of the complainant's home, according to the police. When the complainant requested the group to stop being a nuisance, they got into a fight. The complainant and his family were shot at by the accused parties during the argument.
The first information report also included provisions from the anti-terror law after the police had booked the two individuals under the Arms Act.
The UAPA charges, however, had subsequently been struck by the police from the chargesheet that was submitted to the trial court.
The UAPA, a specific criminal law dealing with terrorism, includes a strict provision that prevents the courts from granting bail if, after reading the chargesheet or case diary, there are good reasons to believe that the person accused of a crime is prima facie true.
The High Court noted in its ruling the response from the Ludhiana police commissioner, who stated that the accused individuals had formed a gang and had engaged in public fights, resulting in "panic and fear in the society," and that this was why the offence under Section 13 of the UAPA Act was added to the FIR.
The commissioner did, however, add that their inquiry revealed that Section 13 of the UAPA did not apply in this particular instance. Additionally, the state informed the court that the UAPA crime was later removed and that the addition was made as a result of the police's "misinterpretation" of the provision.
The police were reprimanded by a bench consisting of Justices Sureshwar Thakur and Sudeepti Sharma for including sections of the anti-terror law.
“Despite knowing the stringency of the policy, gross misinterpretation has been done, you need to be careful while dealing with UAPA,” the court said. “It cannot be used as a tool for harassment. This is complete extortionate policing and not fair policing, you need to be thorough with your work.”
The police were subsequently given a number of directives by the High Court to stop these kinds of incidents.
In circumstances where the investigating officer is gathering evidence to add an offence under the UAPA, the order instructed the police commissioner to oversee the investigation daily.
An "application of mind" to the incriminating data gathered against the potential accused under the anti-terror law was a further order given by the High Court to the police. This is to ensure that the inclusion of offences under the law is absolutely necessary, it said.
“In case there is dereliction of duty on the part of police, the director general of police, Punjab, shall ensure appropriate action against the erring officer in accordance with law,” the High Court order added.