Kerala HC rejects NIA plea against bail: ‘Smuggling’ not defined under UAPA

This comes as a setback to the NIA, which has registered a terror case in connection with the gold smuggling incident, which normally falls within the purview of Customs Act.

REJECTING THE NIA’s plea against the bail granted to 14 accused in a case pertaining to smuggling of gold through diplomatic cargo to the UAE consulate, a division bench of Kerala High Court on Thursday said that “smuggling” is not defined under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Besides, the court said, the materials produced before it are insufficient to hold prima facie that the accused committed a terrorist act.

This comes as a setback to the NIA, which has registered a terror case in connection with the gold smuggling incident, which normally falls within the purview of Customs Act.

After 30 kg of gold was seized from a diplomatic cargo in Thiruvananthapuram last July, the NIA had stepped in, saying smuggling of gold into India from offshore locations threatens the economic stability and national security of the country, and amounts to a terrorist act as stated in Section 15 of the UAPA. Hence, the central agency had slapped charges under the UAPA against the accused in the gold smuggling case.

Upholding the bail granted to the accused, the bench of Justices A Hariprasad and M R Anitha said, “We notice that the word ‘smuggling’ is not defined under the UAPA. Definition of a particular expression occurring in one statute cannot be applied to another, unless they are pari materia [on the same subject or matter].”

It said that it agreed with the trial court that the materials produced before the court are insufficient to hold prima facie that the accused persons have committed a terrorist act. “Gold smuggling clearly covered by the provisions of the Customs Act will not fall within the definition of terrorist act in Section 15 of UA(P) Act unless evidence is brought out to show that it is done with the intent to threaten or it is likely to threaten the economic security or monetary stability of India.’’

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