Gold Smuggling Under Anti-Terror Law? Supreme Court To Examine

The Supreme Court on Tuesday decided to examine the important legal question as to whether the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) could be applicable in gold smuggling in Kerala cases or not.

The top court was hearing the appeal filed by the Centre and the National Investigating Agency (NIA), which submitted that there was confusion in legality of the application of UAPA in gold smuggling case after two High Courts — Kerala and Rajasthan — had come to divergent conclusions on the issue. The court, however, refused to allow the plea of the NIA seeking direction to cancel the bail granted by the Kerala High Court to 12 accused allegedly caught in the smuggling case.

In the Gold Smuggling case, 30 kilograms of 24-carat gold to the tune of around 15 crores was seized at Thiruvananthapuram airport on July 5, 2020, by the Customs department.

A bench of the top court, headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana and comprising Justice AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy said, “They (accused) all are employees of the government. We will not enter into the bail cancellation aspect. If you (Centre and NIA) want, then we can leave the legal question open.”

The Kerala High Court, while granting bail to the 12 accused in the gold smuggling case, had observed that the UAPA cannot be invoked or applicable in the case.

The court said smuggling cannot come under the purview of the act unless there were enough evidence to show that it was done with the intent to threaten the economic security of the country.

On the contrary to the Kerala High Court, Rajasthan High Court had in a case, ruled that a gold smuggler, prosecuted under customs Act, could also be prosecuted under UAPA, and the accused persons can be tried under the law for relevant sections under the charge of terror.

The Rajasthan High Court passed the order after going through a petition where an accused sought to quash the UAPA charges levelled against him there in the Rajasthan High Court.

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