Kerala gold smuggling case: SC accepts bond, will consider UAPA request

The SUPREME Court on Tuesday refused to grant a request by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to rescind the bail granted by the Kerala High Court to 12 defendants in the gold smuggling case which had degenerated into a crisis for the state government led by the CPI (M) in the run-up to the April parliamentary elections.

However, the bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana agreed to consider the legal question raised by the conflicting rulings of the high courts of Rajasthan and Kerala on whether the offense of smuggling of however, “simpliciter” (simply or directly) will fall under the definition of a terrorist act under the Illegal Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967.

“They (accused) are all government employees. We will not go into the cancellation aspect of the deposit. If you wish, we can leave the legal question open, ”said the bench, also composed of judges AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy.

The High Court, while granting bail, said the offense was covered by the Customs Act and would not constitute an offense under the UAPA.

The High Court had also relied on the NIA tribunal’s findings that there was no evidence to show that the money generated from the alleged smuggling was being used for terrorist activities.

The case stems from the seizure of 30 kg of 24 karat gold worth Rs 14.82 crore at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport last year by the (Preventive) Customs Commission.

The shipment was reportedly camouflaged as diplomatic baggage sent from the United Arab Emirates. Later, the NIA and the Law Enforcement Directorate opened the investigation, which led to the arrest of Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Mr. Sivasankar, the former employee of the UAE Consulate. Arab Emirates, Swapna Suresh and others.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled: “After carefully reviewing the documents available on the record, we are not inclined to interfere with the challenged order issued by the High Court … granting bail to the respondents here. However, in light of the arguments presented by the Additional learned Solicitor General, that a limited opinion be issued to consider the question of law involved in the cases.

Appearing for the investigative agency, Additional Solicitor General KM Natraj pointed out that the High Court of Rajasthan had ruled that UAPA could be invoked in gold smuggling cases and that the Supreme Court had already issued an opinion appeal pending against this decision.

In March of this year, the Customs Department in an affidavit to the High Court of Kerala said Swapna Suresh “said clearly about the smuggling of foreign currency at the behest of” Vijayan and then the Speaker of the Assembly. of Kerala P Sreeramakrishnan – and “regarding the irregular and illegal activities of three ministers of the State Cabinet and the President”.

“The role of the former Principal Secretary in acting as a link between high level politicians in Kerala and UAE consulate officials as well as others and in coordinating illegal financial transactions under the guise of various activities and projects state government was also disclosed by her, ”the affidavit said.

The affidavit prompted the CPI (M) to target the BJP, which is in power at the Center, alleging that “investigative agencies have lowered themselves to the level of campaign tools.”

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