Supreme Court To Examine Whether Gold Smuggling with Intent to Profit Making is a 'terrorist activity' under UAPA The Supreme Court (SC) bench consisting of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and BR Gavai, issued a notice in the case of Mhd. Aslam (Petitioner) v. Union of India & Anr. (Respondents). The petitioner was charged with smuggling gold into India for money after he lost his job...
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Supreme Court To Examine Whether Gold Smuggling with Intent to Profit Making is a 'terrorist activity' under UAPA
The Supreme Court (SC) bench consisting of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and BR Gavai, issued a notice in the case of Mhd. Aslam (Petitioner) v. Union of India & Anr. (Respondents). The petitioner was charged with smuggling gold into India for money after he lost his job in Saudi Arabia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Top Court will examine the issue- whether gold smuggling will fall within the scope and ambit of 'terrorist activity' under Section 15(1)(iiia) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA).
The petitioner moved to the Apex Court challenging the order passed by the Rajasthan High Court (HC). The HC has dismissed his plea to quash a First Information Report (FIR) registered against him for offences under the UAPA after he was caught smuggling gold.
Section 15(1)(iiia) of the UAPA provides that a 'terrorist act' includes any act done with intent to threaten the security or integrity of India by any means which causes or is likely to cause "any damage to, the monetary stability of India by way of production or smuggling or circulation of high-quality counterfeit Indian paper currency, coin or of any other material".
In the instant matter, the petitioner had lost his job in Saudi Arabia due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was struggling financially when he met a person named Lal Mohammad, who influenced him to deliver some gold to an unknown person in Jaipur. Lal Mohammad promised pay Rs. 10,000 and also to book an air ticket to India for the petitioner.
The petitioner stated in his plea that "Since the petitioner was unemployed and desperate for money, he agreed to Lal Mohammad's offer." In July 2020, Aslam and ten others were arrested at Jaipur International Airport while attempting to smuggle gold.
An FIR was registered against him under Section 16 of UAPA on the allegation that he had smuggled gold with the intent to threaten the economic security and damaging the monetary stability of India.
The petitioner contended that no prima facie case was made out against him and that he was in no way connected to any terrorist or extremist group.
The advocate representing the petitioner relied on the 160th Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs on the Unlawful Activities Prevention Bill, 2011 (Bill).
The said Bill provides that 'high quality counterfeit Indian currency', the term 'paper' 'coin' or 'any other materials' under Section 15(1)(iiia) were put in the same bracket. The advocate for the petitioner argued that the legislature never intended to lay down 'or of any other materials' as a separate entity.
It was further contended that an act was done with an intention to cause damage to the economic security of India alone would attract the offence defined under Section 15 of the UAPA and gold smuggling per se even in large quantity should be deal with under Customs Act and not UAPA.
The petition reads that "The petitioner was a labourer and he smuggled gold in greed of air ticket and money due to situation in lockdown…. The FIR is baseless and should be quashed. The smuggling of gold should have been dealt under provisions of the Customs Act and not UAPA Act."
The petitioner's advocate relied on the judgment of the Kerala High Court that differed with the view of the Rajasthan High Court taken in this case. The judgment of Kerala High Court reads, "It is clear from the decision that no analysis of the provision was made by the learned single Judge. Moreover, no specific reason has been stated for making the aforementioned observations."
The judgment further reads, "It is to be remembered that the learned single Judge was examining whether there was any sufficient reason to quash an FIR at the initial stage of the investigation. We do not find any law laid down in the above decision. We are, therefore, not persuaded by the single line observation made by the learned single Judge that 'any other material' occurring in Section 15(1)(a)(iiia) of UAPA is intended to cover gold smuggling also."