New Delhi: The Supreme Court declined the plea by NIA and sustained the bail granted by the Kerala High Court to the accused of the Kerala gold smuggling case.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had approached the SC asking to cancel the bail granted to the 12 accused. The High Courts of Kerala and Rajasthan have conflicting decisions regarding the provisions. Additional Solicitor General KM Natraj appearing for the NIA said that the Rajasthan High Court had invoked UAPA in gold smuggling cases.
The Kerala High Court granted bail saying that the offence has been covered under Customs Act, and not under UAPA. The court had relied on the NIA report that submitted no evidence that money generated from the alleged smuggling was used for terrorist activities.
The bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana agreed to examine whether the offence of gold smuggling will fall within the definition of a terrorist act under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967, reported The Indian Express.
The bench comprising Justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy said that all the accused in the case are government employees. "We will not enter into the bail cancellation aspect. If you want, then we can leave the legal question open," said the top court. The gold smuggling case had led to a crisis for the CPI(M) state government.
The top court said that after carefully perusing the material available on record, we are not inclined to interfere with the impugned order passed by the High Court. The bench added that the submissions made by the learned Additional Solicitor General are taken into consideration, and a limited notice will be issued to examine the question of law involved in the matter, said The Indian Express report.
30 kg of 24-carat gold worth Rs 14.82 crore was seized at Thiruvananthapuram international airport last year by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate. The package was camouflaged as diplomatic baggage sent from the UAE. Chief Minister PinarayiVijayan's Principal Secretary M Sivasankar, ex-UAE consulate employee Swapna Suresh, and 10 others were arrested in the probe conducted by the NIA and Enforcement Directorate.
In March 2021, the Customs Department filed an affidavit before Kerala HC which said that Swapna Suresh "stated with clarity about the smuggling of foreign currency at the instance of" Vijayan and then Kerala Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan. She also alleged "improper and illegal activities of three Ministers of the State Cabinet and the Speaker".
The affidavit also said that the former Principal Secretary acted as the link between the high-profile politicians of Kerala and the UAE consulate officials. It also named others for coordinating the illegal financial dealings under the cover of various activities and projects of the State Government.