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Indian Case Summary

Union Of India vs K.A. Najeeb on 1 February, 2021 – Case Summary

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In the case of Union of India vs K.A. Najeeb on 1 February 2021, the Supreme Court of India was faced with a complex legal issue involving the intersection of criminal law and constitutional rights. The case was presided over by a bench consisting of N.V. Ramana and Surya Kant.

Facts of the Case

The case revolves around an incident that occurred on 4th July 2010, where a group of people, including the respondent K.A. Najeeb, allegedly attacked a professor named T.J. Joseph. The attack was reportedly a response to a question the professor had included in a B.Com. examination paper, which was perceived as objectionable against a particular religion. The attackers, who were members of the Popular Front of India (PFI), intercepted the professor’s car, restrained him, and chopped off his right palm. They also hurled country-made bombs at bystanders to create panic and prevent them from aiding the victim.

The respondent, K.A. Najeeb, was one of the main conspirators, and he was charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Explosive Substances Act, and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). However, he managed to evade arrest for a long time and was declared an absconder. His trial was separated from the rest of his co-conspirators, most of whom were found guilty and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment ranging from two to eight years.

Issues and Court Observations

The main issue in this case was the grant of bail to the respondent by the High Court of Kerala. The Union of India, through the National Investigation Agency (NIA), appealed against this order, arguing that the High Court had erred in granting bail without considering the stringent provisions of Section 43-D(5) of the UAPA. The NIA contended that the respondent was prima facie guilty and that there was a legitimate apprehension of him not returning if set free.

The respondent’s counsel, on the other hand, argued that many of the co-accused had been acquitted, and those convicted had been sentenced to not more than eight years. Given that the respondent had already been in custody for almost five and a half years without the trial having even started, it would violate his constitutional rights to keep him incarcerated without any adjudication of guilt.

The Supreme Court, in its analysis, emphasized the distinction between the parameters for considering a bail application and those for deciding a petition for its cancellation. It noted that the High Court had granted bail due to the long period of incarceration and the unlikelihood of the trial being completed anytime soon. The Court observed that the respondent had already paid heavily for his acts of fleeing from justice.

The Court concluded that the presence of statutory restrictions like Section 43-D(5) of the UAPA does not oust the ability of Constitutional Courts to grant bail on grounds of violation of Part III of the Constitution. It held that the respondent should be enlarged on bail, subject to certain conditions, including marking his presence at the local police station every week and refraining from participating in any activity that might enrage communal sentiments.