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Punjab and Haryana High Court grants bail to accused in 2019 Tarn Taran blast

The court observed that the material collected by the NIA is not of that nature that it could deny the appellant, Manpreet Singh alias Mann, the benefit of regular bail.

The incident reportedly took place when three of them were digging a pit in an agricultural field to retrieve a dumped explosive consignment that they mishandled. (File)

The Punjab and Haryana High Court Thursday granted bail to an accused arrested by the National Investigating Agency for being allegedly involved in the 2019 Tarn Taran blast.

A division bench of Justice GS Sandhawalia and Justice Harpreet Kaur Jeewan held that the prima facie case is thus not made out which exercise was not conducted by the special judge in the proper perspective and the material which has been collected by the NIA is not of that nature that it could deny the appellant the benefit of regular bail, especially keeping in view the fact that he had been in custody for the three years and two months.

The petitioner, Manpreet Singh alias Mann, was booked under Sections 304, 153-A and 120-B of IPC and Sections 13, 18, 18A, 18B, 20, 23 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA Act) and Sections 3, 4 and 5 of Explosive Substance Act, 1908, and lodged at the Sadar police station, Tarn Taran. Manpreet’s bail was dismissed by the special NIA court of Mohali, following which he moved the high court.

As per reports, two persons — Bikramjit Singh, 22, of Kadgill village and Harpreet Singh, 19, of Bachre village were allegedly killed, while Gurjant, 27, lost his eyesight in the blast that took place on the outskirts of the Pandori Gola village in Tarn Taran district on September 4, 2019. The incident reportedly took place when three of them were digging a pit in an agricultural field to retrieve a dumped explosive consignment that they mishandled.

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The petitioner, Manpreet Singh, who has been arrayed as accused was as per the special judge of NIA court Mohali, though not named in the FIR, due to his associated role which was found during the investigation and based on which he had been subsequently arrested at a later stage of the investigation in the case on September 15, 2019, by the Punjab Police was not entitled to the concession of bail.

Counsel for the appellant Manpreet, advocate Bhanu Pratap Singh, contended before the court that no recovery had been effected of any incriminating material from the appellant and that co-accused, Amarjeet Singh alias Amar Singh was granted the benefit of bail in another case in 2021. Also, it was contended that Manpreet’s role has been mentioned in the chargesheet that he was allegedly testing the bombs along with another accused but the same is based on a disclosure statement obtained when the appellant was in custody which would not be admissible in evidence.

The appellant’s counsel further submitted that there was nothing on record to show that the appellant was a member of any terrorist gang or any terrorist association and was involved in any unlawful activity and was entitled to the concession of bail.

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Opposing the bail plea, counsel for the NIA, Sukhdeep Singh Sandhu, argued that the offences are serious and the appellant has been accused of making bombs and testing them and also that the charge has been framed on December 3, 2020, under Section 153A IPC and the incident regarding throwing of the bomb on Professor Darshan Singh. Also that there was a conspiracy to attack Muradpura Dera of Divya Jyoti Jagran Sansthan in Tarn Taran District, Punjab (founded by Ashutosh Maharaj) by throwing bombs in the night hours of September 4, 2019.

However, on account of the bombs having got exploded on being retrieved, they were unsuccessful in carrying out the attack and therefore, an offence under Section 18 of the UAPA Act had also been committed and the charge had accordingly been framed. Similarly, there was a charge under Section 23 of the UAPA Act that the appellant along with others formed a pro-Khalistan terrorist gang which was taking part in the commission of unlawful activities supporting the Khalistan movement, submitted the NIA counsel.

The division bench, after perusing the disclosure statements of the accused, said it would only go on to show that apart from the bald allegations that the appellant was associated with the co-accused and he had some Facebook ID on which he used to send photographs, video related to Khalistan, he has been implicated would also go on to show that even an attempt was made to seize the same from his co-accused, Chandeep Singh and his Instagram accounts were searched and downloaded in a DVD.

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“Keeping in view the fact that he has clean antecedents and does not have any such background that he was involved in any criminal activity and the fact that the trial is likely to take considerable time since over 117 witnesses have been arrayed out of which only 14 have been examined till now”, the high court observed allowing bail plea of the appellant.

First published on: 09-12-2022 at 14:05 IST
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