The NIA court in Kochi has rejected the bail application of former executive secretary of UAE Consulate Swapna Suresh in the gold smuggling case. However, the court has observed that there is nothing on record to show that the proceeds of smuggling had been used for terrorism or that Suresh had any links with terrorism.
The NIA has been probing the terror angle in the smuggling of gold through diplomatic cargo after invoking Section 15 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, on the ground that smuggling of large quantities of gold could be threatening economic stability and national security of the country. This is the first time the NIA is probing a gold smuggling case, which is usually done by Customs.
While rejecting the bail application of Suresh, Special Court Judge P Krishna Kumar said, “So far there is nothing on record to show that the proceeds of the gold allegedly smuggled have been used, or intended to be used, for any terrorism act or that the petitioner and her associates have any connection directly or indirectly with any terrorist organisation or terrorist. NIA has not brought forth any material in this case for establishing the element of terrorism, in the ordinary sense.”
Observing that the accusation made against the petitioner is prima facie true, the court said the matter requires a deeper probe by the NIA, especially in view of the transnational forces likely to have been involved.
The court made the observations regarding terrorism in the case after perusing two volumes of the case diary. The NIA has so far arrested 12 people, including one person acquitted in a case pertaining to the chopping of a palm of a professor for alleged blasphemy in 2010. Anti-terror laws were invoked in that case.
The prosecution argued that at the early stage of investigation, the court is not expected to examine the precise nature of the offence alleged but rather arrive at a prima facie satisfaction as to the existence of the offence in its general perspective.
The court observed that the accused had given a statement to the investigating officer that she was aware while indulging in smuggling of gold that her act would cause serious damage to the economy of India and “it has got some relevance now”.
The petitioner argued that smuggling of gold would not amount to the offence alleged (terrorism), and that bringing gold with the interest of making profit does not amount to a terror act.
The NIA said that to satisfy the definition of terrorist act as provided in Section 15 of UAPA, the elements of terrorism, in the ordinary sense, were unnecessary.