- Apprentice Lawyer
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.