Apex court acquits two suspected ULFA militants

February 22nd, 2008 - 11:50 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday acquitted two suspected members of the banned terror outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) on the ground that the prosecution had not been able to prove charges of terrorism against them. Acquitting the two suspected militants, Pulin Das and Mahendra Saikia, a bench of Justices P.P. Naolekar and P. Sathasivam, ruled: “The conviction of the two under various sections of the anti-terror law, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, with sentence and fine thereunder is set aside.”

“The appellants are directed to be released forthwith, if not required in any other offence,” the bench said.

While acquitting them, the bench also ticked off the prosecution, saying: “The prosecution has miserably failed to establish the charge levelled against both the accused.”

The bench ticked off the trial court for convicting and sentencing the two in the absence of valid evidence. “The designated court has committed an error in accepting the prosecution case based on a mere reference of ULFA by two witness,” the bench said.

Censuring the trial court, the bench said: “We would like to administer a word of caution to the designated trial courts regarding invoking the provisions of TADA merely because the investigating officer at some stage of the probe chooses to add an offence under the anti-terror law.”

“The designated courts should always consider carefully the material available on the record and apply their mind to see whether the provisions of TADA are even prima facie attracted,” the bench cautioned.

According to the prosecution story, Pulin Das and Mahendra Saikia were arrested on the night of Dec 8, 1993, during a raid by the police at their hideout in Guwahati after an exchange of fire. The two were also shown to be in possession of some firearms, including pistols, rifles and a sten gun besides some ammunition.

The trial court had convicted them on charges of terrorism and awarded them five years’ jail despite acquitting them on charges of possessing firearms as the police had not been able to prove it.

The apex court bench further said, “Of late, we have come across some cases where the trial courts have convicted an accused under TADA even though there is not even an iota of evidence from which it could be inferred, even prima facie, let alone conclusively, that the crime was an act of terror.”

The bench ruled that the courts have been convicting people on the stringent anti-terror charges “merely on the statement of the investigating agency to the effect that the consequence of the criminal act resulted in causing panic or terror in the society or in a section thereof.”

“Such orders result in the misuse of TADA,” the bench said.

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