The Supreme Court has agreed to examine a question whether the offence of gold smuggling can be termed as terrorist activity under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). A bench of Justices R F Nariman and B R Gavai issued notice to Centre and National Investigating Agency (NIA) on a plea against an order of Rajasthan High Court, which had declined to quash the FIR registered by the probe agency under the offences of UAPA.
"Issue notice", the bench said in its order passed on Monday.
The petitioner, Mohammad Aslam, who was caught smuggling over 1.5kg gold at Jaipur International Airport has sought stay of arrest, investigation and proceedings in the FIR lodged by the NIA under provisions of UAPA.
The plea filed by advocate Aditya Jain said that after the case was transferred to NIA, it registered an FIR on the ground that the smuggling of the gold by Aslam was done with the intent to threaten the economic security and damaging the monetary stability of India.
Aslam contended that the second FIR registered by NIA after the first one lodged by the custom officials, was arbitrary and no prima facie case of economic terrorism was made out against him as alleged.
The petitioner was not found to be connected with any terrorist or any extremist group and his background was not suspicious at all, his plea said.
Aslam claimed that he worked as labourer on contract in Saudi Arabia since May 2018 but during the outbreak of Coronavirus, he had lost his job.
During this time of distress, one person named Lal Mohammad contacted present petitioner and influenced him to deliver some amount of gold to an unknown person in Jaipur and in lieu of that he promised to book a return ticket to Jaipur and offered Rs. 10,000. Since the present petitioner was unemployed and desperate for money, he fell into the trap of Lal Mohammad and agreed to his offer, the plea said.
Aslam said that NIA has nothing on record that the smuggled gold was to fund terrorism and section 15 of the UAPA specifically states that whoever does any act with intent to threaten or likely to threaten the economic security of India commits a terrorism act.
The FIR is baseless on this ground and deserves to be quashed as the NIA could not show any such intent of the petitioner. Moreover any such act would not alone attract the offence under UAPA. The smuggling of gold should have been dealt under the corresponding provision of the Customs Act and not UAPA, his plea said.
He said that the NIA has registered the FIR on mere suspicion that the proceeds of gold smuggled might be used for financing terrorism in India.
Even, if the petitioner had funded for smuggling of gold, it would not amount to any offence under the UAPA because an act done with the intention to cause damage to the economic security of India alone would attract the offence under UAPA, he said.
Aslam contended that second FIR by NIA cannot be lodged on the same facts and grounds on which the initial case was lodged under Customs Act.
On July 3, last year, officials of customs department seized more than 18.56 kg gold bars at Jaipur International Airport and arrested ten persons including Aslam, who was allegedly carrying 1515.70 grams of Gold and had arrived from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
On July 5, Aslam and nine others were produced before the court and sent to 14-days judicial custody in the case lodged by Customs department.