SC rejects bail to a man accused of promoting Khalistani terror movement, says a mere delay in trial pertaining to grave offences cannot be used as a ground to grant bail

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While hearing the Gurwinder Singh vs. State of Punjab case on February 07, 2024, the Supreme Court (SC) of India held that mere delay in trial pertaining to grave offences cannot be used as a ground to grant bail. In this case, a two-judge bench of the SC comprising Justice M.M. Sundresh and Justice Aravind Kumar rejected bail to a man charged under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act), 1967, for allegedly promoting the Khalistani terror movement. The bench discussed, “...the material available on record indicates the involvement of the appellant in furtherance of terrorist activities backed by members of banned terrorist organization involving an exchange of large quantum of money through different channels which need to be deciphered and therefore in such a scenario if the appellant is released on bail there is every likelihood that he will influence the key witnesses of the case which might hamper the process of justice.” It added, “Therefore, mere delay in trial pertaining to grave offences as one involved in the instant case cannot be used as a ground to grant bail.” Furthermore, the arguments made on behalf of the appellant were not accepted.

In this case, the Inspector (CIA Staff) received secret information that two persons were hanging cloth banners on which “Khalistan Jindabad” and “Khalistan Referendum 2020”, were written. During the course of the Investigation, an entire module of the banned terrorist organization named “Sikh for Justice” was busted, and accused persons involved in the said module were arrested by Punjab Police. The investigation was completed and a final report was presented before the Trial Court against eleven accused persons on 16.04.2019 under Sections 117, 112, 124A, 153A, 153B, 120-B of the IPC, Sections 17, 18, 19 of the UAP Act and Section 25 of the Arms Act. The prima facie involvement of the present Appellant cropped up in the disclosure statement of the co-accused while he was in the custody of NIA. The trial court vide its order dismissed the Appellant’s bail application under Section 439 CrPC on the ground that there were reasonable grounds to believe the accusation against the Appellant to be true. The High Court rejected the grant of bail to the Appellant on the grounds of the seriousness of the nature of the offence and that none of the protected witnesses had been examined. The matter was further mentioned before the SC.

After hearing the matter, the bench said, “We are of the considered view that the material on record prima facie indicates the complicity of the accused as a part of the conspiracy since he was knowingly facilitating the commission of a preparatory act towards the commission of terrorist act under section 18 of the UAP Act.”