A provocative thought does not ipso facto prove preparation for crime. A special court in Kochi granted bail to two students arrested in Kerala over alleged Maoist Links, after nearly ten months of incarceration, observing that the National Investigation Agency failed to establish a prima facie case under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967, against the accused.
In this case, NIA had submitted charge sheet against Allan Shuhaib (20) and Thwaha Fasal (24)- students of law and journalism respectively- invoking offences under sections 38 and 39 of the UAPA which deal with association with a terrorist organization and supporting it with the intention to further its activities. The accused were also charged with section 13 of the UAPA and 120 B of the IPC.
The court noted that the bar against grant of bail under section 43D (5) of UAPA is not applicable if there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the accusations are “prima facie true”. Referring to the SC decision in NIA v. Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali (2019), wherein the court said that if a rational and reasonable doubt is felt regarding the prosecution case, it will not be precluded from the grant of bail.
The court observed that the notices, pamphlets, banners, etc. seized from the accused related to “burning social and political issues” such as calling for implementation of Gadgil Committee report for the protection of Western Ghats, condemnation of encounter killings of Maoists, protest against police atrocities, abrogation of J&K special status, etc. the programmers and activities projected by the prosecution were public protests related to current issues.
The court also stated that mere possession of books on Communist ideology, Maoism, class struggle, etc., does not prove anything adverse against the accused. To grant bail, the judge noted that the accused did neither have any other criminal antecedents nor have any influential background and are students and young men with a possibility of reforming themselves.