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Kerala gold smuggling case: Supreme Court declines to revoke bail for 12

Agrees to examine whether UAPA can be invoked in smuggling cases

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to revoke the bail granted to 12 accused in the high-profile Kerala gold smuggling case and agreed to examine whether the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) can be invoked in smuggling cases.

The question is whether the offence of gold smuggling is covered entirely under the Customs Act or would it fall within the definition of terrorist act under Section 15 (1) (a) (iiia) of the UAPA.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana issued notice to the 12 accused who were granted bail by the Kerala High Court on this limited question of law concerning the UAPA.

The Centre and the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which had moved the apex court against the High Court’s categorical finding that the UAPA would not stand in smuggling cases, argued in the top court that the High Court’s view was divergent with its Rajasthan counterpart, and the law needed to be finally clarified by the Supreme Court.

The Kerala High Court had maintained that the UAPA cannot be invoked in smuggling cases unless the crime was done with the intent to threaten the economic security of the country.

The NIA had approached the High Court, invoking the UAPA, after the NIA court in Kochi gave the accused bail. It had claimed that the smuggling case had terror links and slapped the UAPA against the accused. It is difficult to get bail under the UAPA. An accused has to prove that there is not even a prima facie case against him.

The case concerns the seizure of 30 kg of 24 carat gold worth ₹ 14.82 crore at the Thiruvananthapuram airport on July 5 last year by Customs.

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