- By Tariq Abdul Muhaimin
Almost 4 months after 14 youths were arrested from different locations in Karnataka on charges of a terror plot and alleged links with banned terror outfits, the case seems to have come back to haunt the Bangalore Central Crime Branch (CCB) as the Karnataka High Court (HC) issued a notice to the latter after the accused filed a petition in the HC challenging a Principal Sessions court ruling which granted an extension of remand by another 90 days.
“The CCB has goofed up this case. It only shows that they do not have substantial evidence to prove their claim and they have not abided by the legal procedures”, an Advocate told NEWZFIRST on condition of Anonymity.
On 29 August, 11 youths were picked up by CCB sleuths from Bangalore and Hubli for alleged links with banned terror outfits. Three more were subsequently arrested from different locations in Karnataka and Hyderabad.
The case of these 14 accused is registered at Basaveshwara Nagar police station, with the CCB Special Enquiries (SE) squad of Bangalore being in-charge of the investigation.
Although several media reports in mid-November read that the state government has written to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), asking them to direct the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to take over the case, the transfer of charge did not happen until the first week of December.
“The Union government directed the State government to hand over the case to the NIA a month ago through the Ministry of Home Affairs. The formalities of handing over the case are nearing completion and in all probability the NIA will take over the case from CCB in another 10 days,” a media report said on 29 November, quoting a senior police officer handling the case.
When the transfer process was still underway, the Bangalore CCB on 22 November moved an application before the Principal City Civil and Sessions Judge Bangalore, seeking an extension of investigation period from 90 days to 180 days. This was done under the provisions of 43D and 2B of the Unlawful Activities Act.
The Sessions judge heard the public prosecutor representing CCB on 23 November and granted the order of extension on 24 November. Contending this order, the petitioners’ advocate has filed a petition in the HC praying that it should be quashed in the interest of justice and equity.
What went wrong?
According to law, the final charge-sheet of any accused should be filed within 90 days since the arrest. However, if the charge-sheet could not be filed due to some reason and an extension is required, the public prosecutor should file an application for extension on behalf of the investigating agency in the Sessions court.
However, only the NIA has got the power to file such an extension application in the Sessions court. The CCB’s jurisdiction ends with the Magistrate court – which does not have the power to grant this extension.
So, if an extension is required, the case should be officially transferred to the NIA which in turn should approach the Sessions court to seek it; simultaneously, the magistrate court should commit the case to the Sessions court.
In this case, neither was the case committed to the Sessions court, nor was the application filed by the NIA; so the Sessions Judge did not have the jurisdiction to grant an extension since the case was still pending in the magistrate court and was not yet committed to the Sessions court.
The notice of extension should also be compulsorily communicated to the accused, as upheld by a number of Supreme Court decisions. However, the petition also points out to the lapse in upholding this criterion.
The High Court will hear the petition on Thursday, 27 December.