Editorial: Striking gold

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 the Union government 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.

The petitioner’s case was that he had lost his job in Saudi Arabia due to the Covid-19 pandemic and was struggling financially when he met one Lal Mohammad, who influenced the petitioner to deliver some gold to an unknown person in Jaipur. Lal Mohammad promised to book petitioner an air ticket to India and also give Rs 10,000.

“Since the petitioner was unemployed and desperate for money, he agreed to LAld Mohammad’s offer,” the plea said. However, in July 2020, Aslam and ten others were arrested at Jaipur International Airport while attempting to smuggle gold. An FIR was registered against him under Section 16 of UAPA on the allegation that he had smuggled gold with the intent to threaten the economic security and damaging the monetary stability of India.

“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,” the plea said.

As per Section 15(1)(iiia), a ‘terrorist act’ includes any act done with intent to threaten the security or integrity of India by any means which causes or is likely to cause ‘any damage to, the monetary stability of India by way of production or smuggling or circulation of high quality counterfeit Indian paper currency, coin or of any other material’. Hence, smuggling of gold can be termed as ‘terrorist activity’ as the aim of those behind it is to destabilise India.

 

NT Bureau