Possessing a book about revolutionary Indian freedom warrior Bhagat Singh, as well as the mere possession of inciting newspaper cuttings, is not illegal, according to a Karnataka court that recently acquitted two men suspected of having Naxalite ties (State of Karnataka v. Vittala Malekudiya and Another).
The two accused were detained in 2012 on suspicion of harbouring and concealing Naxalites. It was also claimed that the two defendants had formed a criminal conspiracy with other conspirators to wage war against India’s sovereignty. Several newspaper clippings and a book about Bhagat Singh were discovered during a search operation at the accused’s home. In addition, various goods that were reportedly in the type of being used by Naxalites were found.
The accused’s counsel, on the other hand, argued that the other items taken from the accused’s home were merely “domestic objects” and had nothing to do with banned groups or Naxalites. Additional Sessions and Districts Judge BB Jakati eventually decided that the evidence gathered was insufficient to support the charges of criminal conspiracy, sedition, and violation of Sections 120-B and 124-A of the Indian Penal Code 1860, as well as Sections 19 and 20 of the Unlawful Activity (Prevention) Act, 1967. (UAPA).
The Judge stated that “owning Bhagat Singh’s book is not prohibited by law… Even if there is an accusatory publication in the press, the accused Nos. 6 and 7 are not responsible for it. The mere possession of newspaper cuttings does not constitute a crime.” The Court went on to say that certain writings discovered on the accused’s property regarding requests for boycotting local elections did not prove that they were involved in Naxalite activity. The judge also highlighted, among other things, that the prosecution’s witnesses had expressly denied the prosecution’s case. It was noted that the seized mobile phones yielded no incriminating material.
In this context, the judge proceeded to acquit the two defendants in front of the court. The court’s decision read, “Acting under Section 235 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the accused No.6 and 7 are hereby acquitted for the offense punishable under Section 120B, 124A of the Indian Penal Code and Section 19 and 20 of the Unlawful Activity (Prevention) Act, 1967.”