The Madras High Court has criticised a Sessions Judge, a Judicial Magistrate and the police for being ignorant of legal procedures even in a case involving national security. It has directed Tamil Nadu State Judicial Academy to conduct refresher courses for judicial officers with special focus on enactments such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967.
Dealing with the bail plea of a person suspected to be a Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) member, Justices P.N. Prakash and N. Anand Venkatesh said, the wrong procedures followed by a Judicial Magistrate on the directions of a Sessions Judge remind them of Lord Jesus’ famous parable where he asked his disciples: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not fall into a pit?”
They went on to state: “We are constrained to use harsh words in this order since the nature of allegations as could be seen from the orders is very serious and it involves the safety and security of this State and the nation. It is quite unfortunate that a specialised agency (such as ‘Q’ branch or National Investigation Agency) did not take over the investigation.”
Authoring the verdict, Justice Venkatesh also lamented that “the respondent (Inspector of Ambur Town Police Station in Tirupattur district) was proceeding in the case in a mechanical fashion. To add insult to injury, even the trained judicial officers were ignorant with respect to the procedures to be adopted in a case involving offences under the 1967 UAP Act.”
The Division Bench pointed out that the Ambur police had registered a case against Mir Anas Ali on July 30, 2022 on the charge of being a member of ISIS and arrested him on the same day for alleged offences under the UAP Act as well as the Indian Penal Code. A Magistrate in Ambur had remanded him to judicial custody.
Since the police failed to complete the investigation and file a final report within 90 days of his arrest, the accused preferred a bail application before the Magistrate on November 11, 2022 seeking statutory bail. The Magistrate rightly returned the application on the ground that the bail plea could be preferred only before the the Sessions Court.
However, the Sessions Court, followed a wrong procedure and forwarded the default bail petition back to the Magistrate with a direction to not send any papers to it. “This direction given by the learned sessions judge is in total ignorance of the provisions of the UAP Act and a Full Bench (comprising three judges) judgement on the issue,” the Division Bench observed.
Thereafter, on November 15, 2022, the Ambur police filed a petition before the Magistrate for extending the remand period from 90 to 120 days though such petition ought to have been filed only before the Sessions Court. This time, the Magistrate too faltered by allowing the remand extension petition first and then dismissing the bail petition on the ground of having extended the remand.
The Division Bench held that both the orders passed by the Magistrate were illegal and non-est in the eye of law on the simple ground that they had been passed by the Magistrate and not by the Sessions Court as required by law. It also stated that denial of statutory bail was not sustainable even on considering the merits of the case.
The 90 days remand period had expired on October 27 and the accused had preferred the default bail plea on November 11. However, the police chose to file the remand extension application only on November 15. Therefore, the bail application ought not to have been dismissed on the ground of having allowed the remand extension application, they said.
Stating that a constitutional court must necessarily recognise the statutory right of the accused, the Bench granted bail to him on condition that he must appear before the police every day until further orders.