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Sudesh Kedia vs. Union Of India - (Supreme Court) (09 Apr 2021)

Payment of extortion money does not amount to terror funding

MANU/SC/0255/2021

Criminal

The Appellant is accused of committing offences under Sections 120B/414/384/386/387 of the Indian Penal Code,1860 (IPC) read with Sections 17/18/21 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 [UA (P) Act] along with Sections 25 (1B) (a)/26/35 of the Arms Act and Section 17 (1) (2) of the Criminal Law Amendment (CLA) Act. The application filed for grant of bail was dismissed by the Judicial Commissioner-cum-Special Judge. The High Court dismissed the criminal appeal filed by the Appellant and upheld the order of the Special Judge. Hence, the present appeal.

It was submitted by the Appellant that, the only accusation is payment of illegal levy to TPC for the smooth functioning of the business. The Appellant is not a member of Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) and cannot be accused of terror funding. On the other hand, there was no way, he could carry on smooth transportation of coal without meeting the demand of the terrorist organization. The meeting that the Appellant had with the members of the organization could not have been avoided and it was only for the purpose of his complying with the demand made by the members of the organization. It was submitted on behalf of the Appellant that a perusal of the charge- sheet and the other material on record would not disclose any offence under Section 17 of the UA (P) Act as it cannot be said that, by any stretch of imagination that the Appellant has raised funds for the terrorist organization.

Section 43-D (5) of [UA (P) Act] mandates that, a person shall not be released on bail, if the Court is of the opinion that, there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusations made are prima facie true. A close scrutiny of the material placed before the Court would clearly shows that, the main accusation against the Appellant is that he paid levy / extortion amount to the terrorist organization. Payment of extortion money does not amount to terror funding. It is clear from the supplementary charge-sheet and the other material on record that other accused who are members of the terrorist organization have been systematically collecting extortion amounts from businessmen in Amrapali and Magadh areas. The Appellant is carrying on transport business in the area of operation of the organization. It is alleged in the second supplementary charge- sheet that the Appellant paid money to the members of the TPC for smooth running of his business. Prima facie, it cannot be said that the Appellant conspired with the other members of the TPC and raised funds to promote the organization.

Another factor taken into account by the Special Court and the High Court relates to the allegation of the Appellant meeting the members of the terror organization. It has been held by the High Court that, the Appellant has been in constant touch with the other accused. Prima facie, present Court is not satisfied that, a case of conspiracy has been made out at this stage only on the ground that the Appellant met the members of the organization.

While considering the grant of bail under Section 43 (5) D, it is the bounden duty of the Court to apply its mind to examine the entire material on record for the purpose of satisfying itself, whether a prima facie case is made out against the accused or not. An amount of Rs. 9,95,000 was seized from the house of the Appellant which was accounted for by the Appellant who stated that the amount was withdrawn from the bank to pay salaries to his employees and other expenses. At this stage, it cannot be said that the amount seized from the Appellant is proceeds from terrorist activity. There is no allegation that, Appellant was receiving any money. On the other hand, the Appellant is accused of providing money to the members of TPC.

Present Court is not satisfied that a prima facie case has been made out against the Appellant relating to the offences alleged against him. The judgment of the High Court is set aside and the Appellant is directed to be released on bail subject to the satisfaction of the Special Court. The appeals are allowed.

Tags : CHARGE-SHEET   BAIL   ENTITLEMENT  

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