The Karnataka High Court has refrained from laying down a fixed time period for completing trials in cases registered under the contentious Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj, while dismissing the plea filed by one Vaseemuddin A, held that judicial officers are bound to make every endeavour to give utmost priority for disposal of cases under UAPA. The plea was filed raising concerns over the many pending UAPA cases in the state.
The court also directed the Registrar General of the court to take steps to transfer cases pending before Bengaluru Urban District Court to Special Court (CCH 50) for timely disposal. At the last hearing held on March 2, it was brought to the court’s attention by the Registrar General that out of the 4 courts dealing with UAPA cases, 2 are vacant, for which concurrent charge is held by other judicial officers. The court had thus directed that a judicial officer be appointed to preside over CCH-50 so that some pending cases in Bengaluru urban District can be transferred to designated special court.
The court has now directed that 33 UAPA cases pending before Bengaluru Urban District be transferred to the designated special court (CCH-50) for which judicial officer has been appointed, after the court’s previous order.
The plea was filed seeking the establishment of an additional UAPA court in Karnataka because of the high rate of pending UAPA cases as there were some cases where trials have been pending for over 12 years. During a hearing in February, the counsel for the petitioner, Mohammed Tahir had urged the Court to pass an order under section 309 (power to postpone or adjourn proceedings) of the Code of Criminal Procedure but the court refused to do so and remarked, “We cannot pass an order under section 309. 309 is an ideal provision but we don’t live in an ideal world.” The petitioner had argued that despite provisions for speedy trial, witnesses are not being examined promptly, nor is there any pressure put on prosecution by the presiding judges to speed up the trial.
With regards to the prayer seeking direction for trial on day to day basis in UAPA cases, the court said, “There cannot be any dispute that all criminal cases where accused are in judicial custody must be disposed off expeditiously considering the right guaranteed to the accused by Article 21 of Constitution of India,” reported LiveLaw.
The court further observed that wherever applicable, mandate of section 309 of CrPC and section 19 of NIA Act should be followed and, as per LiveLaw, said, “We are sure that all judicial officers who are dealing with these cases are conscious of the fact that utmost priority will have to be given for disposal of cases under UAPA for the following reasons: 1. Statutory provision of sec 309 CrPC, 2) seriousness of offences under UAPA 3) for protecting rights of accused under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
The court refused to issue writ of mandamus for laying down the outer limit for completing trials of cases under UAPA, and said that concerned judicial officers are bound to make every endeavour to give priority to disposal of UAPA cases. The court directed the registry to circulate the order to judicial officers of City Civil and Sessions courts across the state.
The story will be updated when the order is available.