The Madras High Court recently referred to a larger bench the question whether an application against the order passed by a Sessions Court under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act should be placed before a Single Judge or before a Division Bench of the High Court.
A Single Bench of Justice AD Jagadish Chandira made the reference while hearing a bail application filed by one Jaffar Sathiq, an accused under the UAPA Act (scheduled offence under the NIA Act), aggrieved by denial of bail by the Court of District and Sessions Judge, Coimbatore.
The Government Advocate had opposed the plea on the ground that the single-Bench is not competent to hear the application inasmuch Section 21 (r/w 22(2)) of the NIA Act provides that only an appeal shall lie from any judgment, sentence or order, of a Special Court (or the Court of Sessions where Special Court is yet to be established) to the Hight Court, and the said appeal has to be heard by a bench of two Judges of the High Court.
It was submitted that the bail application has to be necessarily numbered as an appeal and heard by a bench of two Judges of the High Court.
Justice Chandira however came across two conflicting views taken by two coordinate benches of the High Court, in this context.
He noted that in A. Mohammed Hussain v. State, CRL RC No. 18/2020, a single Bench of the High Court had held that till such time the Special Court is constituted, the Court of Sessions shall have all the powers and it has to follow the procedure provided under Chapter IV of the NIA Act and thereby, only an appeal will lie and that too, it has to be posted before a two Judges bench of this Court. This view draws support from a Division Bench decision in State of Tamil Nadu & Ors. v. S. Tharvees Maideen.
However, in Abdulla @ Abdul Muthalif @ v. State, Crl RC No. 223/2017, another Single Bench of the Madras High Court had held that Section 21 of the NIA Act will not be applicable and only the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code alone will apply and thereby the petition filed against the order passed by the District Court in matters concerning UAP Act can be heard by a Single Judge. This view draws support from a Full Bench decision of the Patna High Court in Bahadur Kora & Ors. v. State of Bihar.
Further Justice Chandira was informed that the Full Bench’s decision in Bahadur Kora case (supra), even though has persuasive value, was not presented before the Single Bench in Mohammed Hussain case (supra).
In this backdrop, Justice Chandira observed that since inconsistent views have been taken by two different Single Judges and two different Benches of the High Court, the matter requires consideration by a larger Bench for pronouncement of an Authoritative decision.
He has referred the following questions:
- i)whether an application against the order passed by the District and Sessions Judge in a matter concerning UAP Act shall be numbered as a bail application or an appeal
- ii)whether, it has to be posted before the Single Judge or a two Judges Bench of this Court.
Case Title: Jaffar Sathiq v. State