HC cancels Thaha’s bail

Order on NIA appeal in Pantheerankavu Maoist case

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Monday reversed the NIA Special Court order granting bail to Thaha Fazal, second accused in the Pantheerankavu Maoist case, and directed him to surrender before the Special Judge, Ernakulam forthwith.

The Bench comprising Justice A. Hariprasad and Justice K. Haripal also ordered that if Thaha failed to surrender, the special court shall take steps to secure him in custody.

Shuhaib to be on bail

The court, however, allowed Alan Shuhaib, the first accused in the case, to remain on bail in view of numerous mitigating circumstances favouring him. The court observed that firstly, on the date of detection of the crime, he was only 20 years old. Secondly, he was undergoing treatment for some psychiatric issues.

Moreover, materials placed before the court, seized from him, were less serious, compared to the materials seized from the possession of Thaha.

The Bench also directed the special court to complete the trial in the case within a year.

The court passed the verdict on appeals filed by the National Investigation Agency against the bail order.

Oversimplified

The court observed that as rightly pointed out by the Assistant Solicitor General appearing for the Union government and the NIA Public Prosecutor, the Special Judge had oversimplified the matters and watered down the seriousness of the documents seized from the accused or the statements of witnesses spoken against them.

Dismissing the contentions of the counsel for the accused, the court said if they, as youngsters were interested in understanding and assimilating new and novel ideologies, a bunch of materials published by a particular outfit alone would not have been found in their possession and power.

Criminal intent

“The underlying element of mens rea cannot be overlooked. Therefore, this circumstance alone is sufficient to say, at least at this stage, that they are protagonists of the organisation,” Bench added.

The court observed that the special court had considered evidence as if in a trial. Such a detailed analysis was not warranted. The documents relied on by the prosecution should have been taken as true and a deeper inquiry was not expected for deciding the application for bail.

The Special Judge has mistaken the activities of a terrorist organisation and the gravity of the offence has been diluted for granting bail, it said.

National interest

The Bench observed that they had no doubt that rights and personal liberty were sacrosanct. Courts are bound to protect it. At the same time, individual rights should subserve the national interest. When individual rights are pitted against national interest and security, the latter should prevail, observed the court.

The Bench observed that there was also substance in the contention that the trial judge had oversimplified the materials seized from the possession of the accused.

“There are documents which are innocuous on the face of it. At the same time, there were other documents that were highly inflammable and volatile. After rushing through the materials we were only to say that, generally speaking, some of those materials are not innocent and innocuous which could be ignored in a light-hearted manner,” the Bench said.

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