Mumbai: Sanatan Sanstha not banned or declared a terrorist outfit says HC

Mumbai: Sanatan Sanstha not banned or declared a terrorist outfit says HC

Court grants bail to 2 accused of being organisation’s part; says it allegedly indulges in nefarious activities.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Saturday, March 25, 2023, 01:29 AM IST
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The Bombay High Court has granted bail to two persons arrested for their alleged complicity in the Nallasopara arms haul case. While granting bail to Liladhar Lodhi and Pratap Hajra, the court made pointed observations about Sanatan Sanstha of which two are a part.

The court said although people are being arrested for being members of Sanatan Sanstha, which allegedly indulges in nefarious and terrorist activities so as to destabilise India by destroying its sovereignty and integrity, with a view to establish “Hindu Rashtra”, but, intriguingly it has not been declared to be a banned or terrorist organisation.

Sanstha is not a frontal organisation says bench of justices

The bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Kamal Khata also said that the Sanstha has neither been declared a frontal organisation of any banned terrorist group within the meaning of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2004. The accused, meanwhile, have been directed to be released on furnishing personal bond of Rs50,000 each. 

The Nallasopara case relates to the recovery of explosive substances from the residence of Vaibhav Raut in 2018. The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) alleged that Raut and others were part of organisations like Sanathan Sanstha and were allegedly plotting a terror attack. 

Explosive substances recovered by the ATS

Additional public prosecutor AR Kapadnis submitted that the ATS recovered three crude bombs from Lodhi’s house. Moreover, there are statements of co-accused which indicate his involvement. 

Sanjeev Punalekar, Lodhi’s advocate, argued that the explosive substance was recovered by the ATS from his ancestral house and there is no evidence to show that he was involved. Besides, there is no evidence to show that training camps were organised by Sanatan Sanstha which were actually attended by him. 

The bench observed that there is no prima facie evidence showing Lodhi’s involvement. It also said mere accusatory statements by co-accused would be “no more than bald statements” unless its veracity is established. 

Evidence collected is disappointing

Terming the evidence collected by the investigating officer as “quite disappointing”, the judges noted that the recovery of three crude bombs from Lodhi’s ancestral house cannot be attributed to him since the recovery was not carried out as per the provisions of the Evidence Act. 

Once it is found that the house from where the incriminating articles have been recovered is not solely owned by Lodhi then such a recovery cannot be attributed to him alone unless possibility of ownership of the property found during house search by others is ruled out, added the judges.

Location of seized mobile phone found near other asccused 

In the case of Hajra, the ATS had seized a mobile phone, the location of which was found to be in and around the office of another accused, Sudhanwa Gondhlekar. The judges noted that the mobile was seized from Hajra by the ATS in 2020 and therefore, possibility cannot be ruled out that in the year 2017, it may have been in the possession of somebody else.

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