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'National Security': SC Cancels Bail of 8 Alleged PFI Members

The court said it was setting aside the bail granted to them by the Madras high court because it was convinced that the charges levelled by the NIA against them are 'prima facie true'.
Justices Pankaj Mithal and (right) Bela Trivedi. The SC is in the background.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has set aside a Madras high court order for bail to eight men allegedly belonging to the banned Popular Front of India, claiming that the charges against them – under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act – appear to be “prima facie true.”

The bench comprised Justices Bela Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal.

The bench was hearing a challenge by the National Investigation Agency of the high court order of October 2023, LiveLaw reported.

The bench asked for trial to be expedited. Among things it took note of were “seriousness of the offences alleged, the period of incarceration being 1.5 years, and the nature of material produced by the NIA.”

The court cited Section 43D(5) of the UAPA which says that an accused cannot be given bail if the court is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against such a person is prima facie true.

“The impugned order by High Court cannot be sustained. We are conscious of the legal position that we should be slow in interfering with the order when the bail has been granted by the High Court , however it is equally settled that if such order of granting bail is found to be illegal or perverse, it must me set aside,” the court said, according to LiveLaw.

The court also said that “national security is always of paramount importance.” It added that any act linked to any terrorist act – violent or non-violent – is liable to be restricted.

The apex court directed the respondents to surrender to the NIA.

The Madras high court bench of Justices S.S. Sunder and Sunder Mohan refused to link the accused to any terrorist activities. The apex court, however, saw merit in a purported ‘vision document’ produced by the NIA which, according to LiveLaw, “showed the collection of several RSS leaders with markings on them”, making it out to be a hit list of sorts.

The Wire has documented instances where NIA raids on PFI leaders shortly after the organisation was banned flouted basic rights. The NIA has often claimed that pamphlets of various kinds, and books that are in circulation, are incriminating – something that the courts have criticised earlier.

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