The Madras High Court has said that the purpose of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, 2008, would be defeated if even ordinary country bomb cases are treated as terror offences. The High Court expressed concern over the difficulties caused if all cases involving scheduled offences under the NIA Act are sent to the ‘Special Courts’. The observation was made by a full bench comprising Justices PN Prakash, V Sivagnam, RN Manjula last week.
The bench was constituted to deliberate upon questions formulated by justice AD Jagadish Chandira given the conflicting orders passed in various cases registered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
The court noted that the Explosive Substances Act was being routinely invoked in gangster crimes in Tamil Nadu and observed how ordinary rowdy gangs have now graduated from using knives to country bombs which they find easier to hurl. The Explosive Substances Act is a scheduled offence under the NIA Act and thus every case registered under the act goes to special courts under the NIA Act. The bench noted that 139 FIRs with offences under the Explosive Substances Act were registered in the year 2019 alone.
The court noted that of the 139 FIRs, only two were treated as per the provisions of the UAPA. The bench noted that if the State police were to go by the strict mandates of the NIA Act, they will have to inform the Centre about all FIRs under the Explosive Substances Act and the Central Government will be loaded with a plethora of such reports from various State Governments. Then the Centre will have to analyze and take a decision on a case-to-case basis as to which of the cases have to be dealt with by the NIA and which have to be left with the State police.
The High Court also said that the sessions courts are already overburdened with routine judicial work and if that happens, they would have to see final reports of country bomb cases where the UAPA has been invoked.
“The very purpose of the NIA Act, 2008 is to expedite the trial of serious offences, enumerated in the schedule, which would be defeated if one Court is jurisdictionally overloaded with several enactments conferring special jurisdiction. This is a practical issue which, if not addressed with reasonable dispatch, would defeat the very purpose of having Special Courts”, said the Madras High Court.