New Delhi: Smuggling gold with the intent to threaten the economic security of the country can be termed as a “terrorist act” under the stringent anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the Rajasthan High Court has said.
The High Court made this observation Monday while refusing to quash a criminal case, registered by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), against the accused Mohammad Aslam under UAPA. Aslam has been accused of smuggling gold as well as facilitating smuggling activities for other people.
A bench of Justice Satish Kumar Sharma noted that the registration of the FIR was “not a discriminatory act”, as alleged by Aslam in his petition because he was “prima facie found to be smuggler of gold”.
“The gold is certainly a valuable material, smuggling of which can be done with intent to threaten or likely to threaten the economic security of the country (sic),” the judge said.
He even rejected Aslam’s plea that registering the case under UAPA would amount to “double jeopardy” because he was also facing prosecution under the Customs Act due to his alleged gold smuggling.
The bench remarked that smuggling of gold is a distinct offence under the Customs Act and, therefore, separate prosecutions under two separate laws were maintainable.
‘FIR is an abuse of process of law’
The NIA has charged Aslam under Section 16 of UAPA, read with Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Whoever is found guilty of a terrorist act is punished under Section 16 of UAPA either with the death sentence or life imprisonment. A terrorist act is defined under Section 15 of UAPA.
Challenging the FIR against him, Aslam had argued that he was booked on the basis of suspicion, whereas such an FIR can only be registered for prima facie involvement in a terrorist activity, as defined under Section 15 of UAPA.
He cited section 15 (I)(a)(iiia) — which specifically talks about smuggling as a terrorist act — to contend that “smuggling of gold” was not covered under the law.
Aslam claimed the case is a glaring example of abuse of the judicial process and deserves to be quashed.
‘Any valuable material can damage monetary stability of country’
The NIA, however, said that Aslam smuggled gold with the intent to threaten the economic security of the country, which prima facie is a terrorist act.
Aside from this, the agency also accused him of being a facilitator of smuggling activities.
Quoting extensively from Section 15 of the UAPA, the judge held that it was clear from the provision that “terrorist act” also includes “the act done with intent to threaten or likely to threaten the economic security of the country”.
The act, he added, has been further qualified under Section 15(I)(a)(iiia) of the law, which states that an act that may cause damage to the monetary stability of India by way of smuggling of any other material will be a terrorist act.
“The smuggling of any valuable material can cause damage to the monetary stability of the nation which may have impact to threaten or likely to threaten the economic security, therefore, the legislature in its own wisdom appears to have not specified particular material in this provision,” the judge said.
According to Justice Sharma, gold is “certainly a valuable material” and, therefore, the metal’s smuggling is likely to threaten the economic security of the country.
He added that Aslam can avail the legal remedy available to him, after the NIA files its charge sheet in the case.