Gadchiroli Blast Case: Bombay HC Directs Dropping Of MCOCA Against 3 Accused

Gadchiroli Blast Case: Bombay HC Directs Dropping Of MCOCA Against 3 Accused

The court noted that the provisions of MCOCA were not complied with, which mandated filing of chargesheet, cognisance of which has to be taken by competent court, prior to the registration of the offence.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Wednesday, June 12, 2024, 01:07 AM IST
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Bombay HC | File

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday has directed the dropping of the charges/provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against three persons arrested for their alleged role in alleged Naxal attack of 2019 in Gadchiroli which claimed lives of 15 police personnel and one civilian.

The court noted that the provisions of MCOCA were not complied with, which mandated filing of chargesheet, cognisance of which has to be taken by competent court, prior to the registration of the offence.

The HC has allowed appeals by Somsay Madvi, 43, Kisan Hidami, 39 and Parasram Tulavi, 32 challenging the order of the Special MCOCA court rejecting their plea for dropping MCOCA on March 6, 2023.

On May 1, 2019, alleged Naxals set fire to 27 vehicles of an infrastructure company and detonated a pressure bomb in Gadchiroli killing 15 police personnel and one civilian. The next day, the Purada Police Station, District Gadchiroli registered an offence. Considering the gravity of the offence, the probe was then transferred to the National Investigation AGency (NIA) on June 24.

The probe revealed that the offence was committed by an organised crime syndicate of a banned Terrorist Organization namely CPI (M). It was also revealed that during the last 10 preceding years more than 23 cases have been registered against the arrested principal accused Nirmala Kumari Uppuganti alias Narmada Akka.

The NIA, hence, sought to invoke MCOCA on December 6, 2019, which was approved by the competent authority on February 7, 2020. A supplementary chargesheet was filed on September 24. Petitioners advocates argued that the offence was registered on May 2. The competent authority, while granting approval, had relied on offences registered against Uppuganti, cognisance of which was taken on May 30, 2019 and April 22 – much later than the alleged offence on May 1.

As per a Supreme Court judgment, to invoke MCOCA, an accused is required to be involved in “continuing unlawful activity”, with more than one charge-sheets have been filed before a competent court within the preceding period of ten years and the “court had taken cognizance of such offence”. Public prosecutor Aruna Pai opposed the plea contending that cognisance of the preceding two cases was taken by courts in May and April 2019, whereas, the NIA took over the case and invoked MCOCA in June.

The high court, however, cited the apex court’s judgment and noted that as per Section 3 of the MCOCA, chargesheet has to be filed and cognisance taken of earlier cases, prior to the date on which crime was committed or came to be known. “It is the settled position of law that, stringent the provisions of an Act are, the stricter is its compliance,” a bench of Justices Ajey Gadkari and Shyam Chandak said.

“Thus, on the date of commission of the offence (May 1) and/or on the date of its registration (May 2)... the concerned Court had not taken cognizance and therefore it legally did not comply with the requirement of Section 2(d) of the MCOCA,” the court added. Although the competent authority stated that more than 23 cases have been registered against Uppuganti, “in its wisdom” has relied upon the two prior cases while passing the impugned Order of prior approval, the bench said.

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