[Bail in UAPA cases] Should plea against District Court order be placed before Division Bench? Madras High Court refers question to larger Bench

"Whether an application against the order passed by the District and Sessions Judge in a matter concerning UAPA shall be numbered as a bail application or an appeal?" is one of the questions referred.
[Bail in UAPA cases] Should plea against District Court order be placed before Division Bench? Madras High Court refers question to larger Bench
Madras High Court

In bail cases involving offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), should applications challenging orders passed by the District and Sessions Court be placed before a single-judge Bench or a Division Bench?

Justice AD Jagadish Chandira of the Madras High Court recently referred this question for authoritative pronouncement by a larger Bench, upon taking note of two conflicting orders on the issue by two coordinate (single) Benches.

A disagreement over the applicability of Section 21 of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008 (NIA) Act versus the applicability of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) arose before the single-judge, who was due to decide an application challenging the rejection of bail by a District and Sessions Judge to a UAPA accused.

On the one hand, it was noted that Justice P Rajamanickam had passed an order last May, opining that only appeals against Sessions Court orders in UAPA cases would lie before a High Court and, pertinently, that these would have to be heard by a two-Judge / Division Bench. In this regard, the judge relied on the Madras High Court's 2015 judgment in State of Tamil Nadu and Others v. S Tharvees Maideen.

On the other hand, back in 2018, Justice MV Muralidharan ruled that petitions filed against the District Court orders in UAPA cases can be heard by a single-judge Bench. Reliance was placed on the Full Bench decision of the Patna High Court in Bahadur Kora and Others v State of Bihar.

Given the two conflicting views, Justice Chandira has now referred the following two questions to be decided authoritatively by a larger Bench, i.e.:

  • Whether an application against the order passed by the District and Sessions Judge in a matter concerning UAP Act shall be numbered as a bail application or an appeal? and

  • Whether, it has to be posted before the single-judge or a two-judges Bench of this Court?

As for the case prompting the discussion, the Court took on record that the prayer for bail had become infructuous since the petitioner/accused under the UAPA had been released on default bail during the pendency of his case before the High Court.

The petitioner, in this case, was represented by Advocates I Abdul Basith ML, K Nizamuddin, A Nowfal, NM Shajahan and A Nowfil. T Shunmugarajeswaran, Government Advocate (criminal side) appeared for the State.

[Read Order]

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