By Pervez Bari
Bhopal: Four alleged SIMI activists, who were lodged in Bhopal jail since 2013, were released here on Thursday night around 9 pm from Central Jail in Bhopal on the orders of the Supreme Court of India which granted them bail a few days back.
The under-trials were released after jail authorities completed all the paperwork. Their family members were waiting outside the jail since morning to receive them. There were heavy posse of security personnel at the CJM court where papers were prepared for their release and also in the vicinity of the jail.
According to sources Madhya Pradesh ATS has decided to file an appeal against the bail.
It may be pointed here that the Supreme Court had granted bail to the four alleged SIMI four under-trials namely Siddique, Ismail Mashaalkar, Umer Dandoti and Irfan, who spent nearly eight years in prison, are residents of Sholapur district in Maharashtra. The SC granted bail on the ground that the Bhopal district court which decided their case had no jurisdiction to extend their judicial custody.
The four alleged SIMI activists were arrested in December 2013 for harbouring and aiding the fugitives of the Khandwa jailbreak in October that year in which seven alleged SIMI activists had broken out of the prison after knifing two guards.
The four activists were booked under Section 157 IPC which reads Harbouring persons hired for an unlawful assembly, according to an advocate pleading the cases of SIMI activists. They were charged under UAPA, Arms Act and IPC sections for attempted murder, forgery and criminal conspiracy. The four were locked up in Bhopal jail, along with 28 other SIMI suspects.
On March 20, 2014, on an application moved on behalf of MP anti-terror squad (ATS), the Bhopal chief judicial magistrate had granted extension of jail remand to Siddique, Ismail, Umer and Irfan.
On completion of 90 days of custody, the suspects moved for bail on the ground that the investigating agency hadn’t filed the charge sheet within that period. Their plea and subsequent appeals were rejected in 2015.
Challenged in SC
The four moved Madhya Pradesh High Court, which denied relief, saying that since the CJM Bhopal had passed an appropriate order extending the time given for investigation to 180 days, the suspects’ bail pleas under Section 167(2) CrPC were not maintainable. Their lawyers challenged this in Supreme Court, arguing that the extension granted by
The SC heard arguments from both sides and then observed: “After considering provisions of the relevant statues, it is concluded that so far as all offences under UAPA are concerned, the magistrate’s jurisdiction to extend time under the first proviso in Section 43-D (2)(b) is non-existent.”
“Consequently, in so far as ‘extension of time to complete investigation’ is concerned, the magistrate would not be competent to consider the request and the only competent authority to consider such request would be ‘the court’ as specified in the proviso in Section 43-D (2)(b) of UAPA. In view of the law laid down by this court, we accept the plea raised by the appellants and hold them entitled to the relief of default bail as prayed for,” the SC ruled.
The four have to be produced in trial court within three days, which shall release them on bail, subject to trial conditions, the SC ordered, adding: “The court may deem appropriate to ensure their presence and participation in the trial.”
“We have been apprised that the trial has progressed to a considerable length. We, therefore, direct the trial court to conclude the proceedings as early as possible,” the SC said.
It may be recalled here that the seven who had escaped from Khandwa jail had been arrested for the murder of a police officer and a bomb blast at a hospital in Khandwa. All the fugitives — including ‘mastermind’ Abu Faisal — were tracked down and caught in a massive manhunt led by the then IG (ATS) Sanjeev Shami.
CJM court had no right
Meanwhile, according to senior advocate Syed Sajid Ali, CJM court does not have the power to hear cases of Section 157 IPC which reads: “Harbouring persons hired for an unlawful assembly. It is a matter of ADJ level court”.
So, CJM court has no right to extend jail remand from 90-180 days. It was not noticed at ADJ court level and even at High Court level. Ultimately, the Supreme Court acknowledged it and granted bail to the four, he added.