Gold smuggling: No terror act by Swapna Suresh, others, says Kerala HC

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday granted bail to Swapna Suresh and 7 others in a UAPA case lodged by the NIA in connection with the sensational gold smuggling through diplomatic channels, saying that prima facie it does not find that they committed any terrorist act as alleged against them.
Swapna Suresh (Image Courtesy: IANS)
Swapna Suresh (Image Courtesy: IANS)
A bench of Justices K Vinod Chandran and C Jayachandran said the facts of the case narrated before it and the charges alleged against the accused "do not commend us to find the accused having any connection with any terrorist act" as provided under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The court also said that it does not find that the actions of the accused were a threat to the economic security of the country, since there was no counterfeiting of high quality notes and coins.
The bench also said there was "no question" of distinguishing those granted bail in the case earlier as "back runners" and the present 8 accused as front runners, which was one of the contentions of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) while opposing grant of any relief to them.
"..there is no question of distinguishing the various accused arrayed as front-runners or back-runners. Whatever be the role of the accused, the activity being smuggling of gold, which cannot be deemed to be a terrorist act under section 15 of the UAPA," the court said.
The court granted bail to the eight accused subject to them furnishing a bond of Rs 25 lakh each with two solvent sureties each for the like amount.
The other conditions imposed by the bench included that the accused deposit their passports with the special Court without whose permission they shall not leave Kerala, they shall not contact the witnesses or tamper with the evidence, they shall not commit any offence while on bail and they shall appear before the local SHO on every Sunday between 10AM and 11AM.
Besides Suresh, the court granted the relief to seven others -- Mohammed Shafi P, Jalal A M, Rabins Hameed, Ramees K T, Sharafudeen K T, Sarith P S and Mohammed Ali -- in the case.
Advocate Sooraj T Elenjickal, who represented Suresh, said with the grant of bail in the NIA case, she can come out of judicial custody as her preventive detention under the COFEPOSA (Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act) had been recently set aside by the high court.
This may not be true for the other accused in the gold smuggling case, the lawyer said.
The NIA, ED and Customs conducted separate investigations into the racket that was busted with the seizure of gold worth Rs 15 crore from the diplomatic baggage of the UAE Consulate at Thiruvananthapuram airport on July 5, 2020.
Several people including Sivasankar, the former Principal Secretary to the Kerala Chief Minister, former employees of the UAE consulate, Suresh and Sarith P S, were arrested in connection with the case.
NIA had earlier, while opposing their bail pleas, told the high court that Suresh and others committed a terrorist act by smuggling 167 kg of gold into India from UAE between November 2019 to June 2020 as they knew that doing so would threaten the security and economic stability of the country.
The agency had also told the high court that Suresh and others, involved in the smuggling of gold through diplomatic channels, were also aware that their actions would damage India's relations with UAE and therefore, the offences under the UAPA for terrorist act, conspiracy and being part of a terror organisation are made out.

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