“Evidence of conspiracy and gold smuggling does not give prima facie credence to an allegation of threat to economic security or irreparable harm to the economic security of the country and therefore cannot be considered an act of terrorism”, said the order issued on Saturday. noted based on a similar judgment from Kerala HC last year.
While allowing the appeals and releasing the accused-appellant on bail, a division bench consisting of Judge Pankaj Bhandari and Judge Anoop Kumar Dhand observed that “the Customs Act is not included in Schedule II of the AU(P)A, so the smuggling of gold and that too of a certain amount, which is bondable under the Customs Act, cannot be treated as a terrorist act.” The tribunal considered whether section 15(1)(a)(iiia) of the AU(P)A, which was inserted in 2012, was intended to include gold smuggling in the category of “other subjects”.
The case concerns an FIR registered by the NIA in July 2020 against 10 accused persons after they were apprehended by customs officers at Jaipur airport, while trying to smuggle gold into India from Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia. Previously, the single chamber of this court had ruled that gold is a vulnerable material, the smuggling of which can be done with the intention of threatening or likely to threaten the economic security of the country and therefore considered a “terrorist act”.
Home Office officials said the NIA and legal experts would review the order. “A legal opinion will be taken before filing any appeal in court,” said a senior official, who did not wish to be identified.
After the discovery of the Kerala gold scam in 2020, the BJP staged protests against Chief Minister Pinayari Vijayan demanding his resignation, alleging the involvement of its former Principal Secretary M Sivasankar.