In a significant legal development, the Punjab & Haryana High Court has granted bail to Sukhpreet Kaur, a woman who had been detained in 2022 under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA). Kaur’s detention was primarily based on the disclosure statement made by her husband, Vijay Singh.
Vijay Singh, in his disclosure statement, stated that his wife, Sukhpreet Kaur, had supported him in engaging in illegal activities. He claimed that Kaur was involved in collecting a parcel containing a hand grenade, a pistol, and other explosives from a border area. Notably, Kaur was at an advanced stage of pregnancy when she was booked under the UAPA, and she eventually gave birth to her child while in prison.
However, the Punjab & Haryana High Court’s bench, comprising Justice Anupinder Singh Grewal and Justice LalitBatra, made a crucial determination. They found that there was no incriminating material that could be attributed to SukhpreetKaur. Additionally, the Court concluded that there was no prima facie evidence to implicate her in the alleged offenses under Sections 10, 13, 18, and 20 of the UAPA.
The High Court’s stance was that the provisions of the UAPA are stringent, and it emphasized the need for careful scrutiny of the material against an accused. In the context of Section 43(D)(5) of the UAPA, the Court pointed out that the release of the petitioner on bail should not be directed if there are reasonable grounds for believing that the allegations are prima facie true. In Kaur’s case, the Court noted that, apart from the statement of the co-accused, who happened to be Kaur’s husband, no incriminating material was presented to indicate her direct involvement in the offense.
The Court further underscored that Kaur was at an advanced stage of pregnancy when she was arrested, and she had already spent nearly a year in custody. Notably, her husband’s statement was the primary basis for implicating her, and there was no recovery of incriminating evidence from Kaur or her husband.
Kaur’s case revolved around her challenge to the order issued by the Special Judge in Moga, Punjab. This order had dismissed her bail application under Section 439 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The allegations against her pertained to her being a member of an unlawful association and her involvement in other offenses under Sections 25(6), 25(7) of the Arms Act, Sections 10, 13, 18, and 20 of the UAPA, as well as Sections 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908. However, her counsel argued that there had been no discovery of any facts or articles in accordance with her husband’s disclosure statement.
In their decision, the Court referred to the Supreme Court’s judgment in Jaffar Hussain Dastagir v. State of Maharashtra. This case emphasized that Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, which makes certain statements of the accused admissible, requires that the information given by the accused must lead to the discovery of a fact related to the crime. This discovery of a fact must also relate to the commission of an offense.
Considering the facts that Kaur was a woman with an infant, she had been in custody for almost a year, and there was no prima facie material to implicate her under the UAPA, the High Court set aside the order of the Special Judge in Moga.
Consequently, the High Court ordered the release of SukhpreetKaur on regular bail. This case highlights the significance of the Evidence Act and UAPA in determining the fate of individuals detained under these laws, as well as the responsibility of the judiciary to carefully assess the evidence and allegations in such cases.