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Establish three more NIA courts in Karnataka within six months: High Court

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Bengaluru: The High Court of Karnataka has recommended that three more Special Courts for National Investigation Agency (NIA) cases be established in three revenue divisions of Karnataka, within the next six months.

“We hereby recommend the State Government to constitute/establish three Special Courts for trial of NIA cases in Mysore Division, Belagavi Division and Kalburgi Division within a period of six months from the date of receipt of copy of the order,” the Division Bench of B Veerappa and Justice Venkatesh Naik T said in their judgment dismissing the appeals filed by 41 accused in the Hubballi riots case.

It would “ensure speedy trial and disposal of the NIA cases” in order to make justice accessible to the needy and “to fulfil the scope and object of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act”, the bench said.

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A Special Court had rejected the bail pleas of the accused after which they approached the HC in two separate petitions.

In its common order on the two petitions, the HC said in its April 20 judgment, “On re-appreciation of the entire material on record, we answer the point raised in these criminal appeals in the negative holding that the appellants/accused have not made out a case to interfere with the impugned order passed by the Special Court rejecting their applications for regular bail in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case.”

While dealing with the bail petitions, the HC also noted that very old NIA cases had also been pending.

“As of today, for the entire State, the Government has established only one Special Court at Bangalore to deal with the cases under National Investigation Agency Act, 2008. By careful perusal of the statistical data, it is clearly depicted that NIA cases which are more than 8 to 9 years old are pending,” it said.

The Court said it was high time that new courts were established.

“If the newly proposed Special Courts are not constituted/established, one Special Court in the entire State would be overburdened and will lead to inordinate delay in trial and disposal of NIA cases, which is against the Constitutional mandate as contemplated under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India,” it said.

In Karnataka, Bengaluru Division consists of nine districts; Mysore Division consists eight districts, Belagavi Division consists seven districts and Kalburgi Division consists of six districts, the HC noted.

The HC also listed the number of cases pending in the existing Special Court. It found that one case was nine years old, two cases each were eight and seven years old, six cases were five years old, three cases six years old, eight cases two years old and five cases one year old.

“It is high time for the State Government to fulfill the scope and object of the UA(P) Act and ensure speedy trial and disposal by constituting/establishing three more Special Courts for trial of NIA cases in other revenue Divisions of Karnataka,” the HC said.

The HC was hearing the appeal of 41 accused in the Hubballi riots on the night of April 16, 2022.

A complaint had been filed against a person for his Whatsapp status showing a saffron flag on a masjid.

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Hubballi rural police station demanding action. They allegedly, with the “intention of committing the murder” of the police personnel, “assaulted with clubs, pelted stones and threw chappals on the police and caused injuries, destroyed the vehicles of police and public and government properties.”

The police booked several people for the riots, and later the case was handed over to the NIA. The bail petitions of the accused were rejected by the Special Court on December 26, 2022 after which they approached the HC.

Rejecting their plea, the HC said, “Though several contentions urged by the learned counsel for the appellants for granting bail and the learned SPP for rejecting the bail, the fact remains that the accused have not made out any prima facie case to grant bail.”

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( With inputs from www.siasat.com )

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