Words which cause disaffection towards another community or political party cannot be termed ‘unlawful activity’ under Section 2(o) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a Jammu & Kashmir court ruled on Thursday granting bail to National Conference Leader Hilal Akbar Lone (Hilal Akbar Lone v Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir).
Only those act or words would fall within the ambit of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) which has the tendency to bring cessation of a part of the country or disruption of its sovereignty and territorial integrity or to cause disaffection against the country, the Special UAPA Court at Baramullah made it clear.
Actions or words which cause or tend to cause hatred towards another community or political party will at the most attract only the offence of promoting enmity between different classes (under IPC), Additional Sessions Judge, Baramulla Sanjay Parihar ruled.
“There is no allegation that he (Lone) called for cessation of a territory of the State from the Union of India or that his words were intending to cause disaffection towards the country. At the most he had certain diversion of opinion against policies of the present establishment which being part of politics, he is entitled to frame. That cannot be termed as amounting to causing disaffection against the country at large,” the Court said.
It, therefore, ordered Lone to be released on furnishing surety bonds to the tune of Rs. 2 lakhs with one surety in the like amount.
Lone is on trial for offence punishable under Section 13 of UAPA after a Facebook video emerged of a speech made by him at Gund Jahangeer in view of DDC elections of 2020.
The authorities alleged that the speech was anti-establishment, highly provocative and instigated general public against integrity and security of the State.
It was also alleged that the speech was intended to cause and disharmony and disrupt peace and tranquility besides promoting enmity on grounds of religion.
Lone was detained on December 25, 2020 and was also charged for offences under Section 125 of the Representation of People Act for violation of Model Code of Conduct and Section 153A (promoting enmity on the grounds of religion) of the Indian Penal Code
The counsel for the petitioner submitted that there was nothing on record in the police report to show that petitioner has committed any act threatening the integrity of the country and there were no ingredients for drawing the offence under section 13 of UAPA Act.
“Besides petitioner being from political class, was canvassing for his party National Conference (NC) in the just concluded Panchayat Elections, as his father is member of Parliament, who was part of a political front, comprising of various political parties who had drawn Gupkar Alliance. In that background, the petitioner being also a political worker, had been canvassing for candidates of National Conference and Gupkar Alliance whereby the accused has been wrongly implicated as accused for violating Model Code of Conduct for which he has been slapped with charges under section 125 of RP Act”, submitted petitioner.
It was also pointed out that Lone had worked as Senior Law officer and had good credentials. He had defended the State Home Department before the J&K High Court in the capacity of Additional Advocate General, it was highlighted.
The State, however, maintained that Lone had delivered a provocative speech and instigated people to promote disharmony, caused ill-will and enmity between religions and classes.
It was also contended that Lone belongs to an affluent family and if released on bail, could frustrate the trial and investigation.
The Court noted that the allegation against the petitioner was not that he was exhorting people to overthrow the government using force and violence.
There is no case against the petitioner that he was inciting people to commit any violence, the Court further observed.
“What is alleged therein is regarding the policies of the government of the day which according to the petitioner ‘is branding Muslims as terrorist, whereas its own people are terrorizing others and preventing them from discharging their religious beliefs’,” the Court said.
Such spoken words will not prima facie amount to unlawful activity provided in Section 2 (o) of the UAPA, the Court said.
“At the most, the words spoken by him in the said video attract the offence promoting enmity between various classes or questioning the policies of the government of the day. The accusations against the petitioner can at the most be termed as affecting “public order” but not as having threatened the security of the state,” the Court underscored.
The other offences were ones which attracted lesser punishment that the UAPA charge, the court noted.
Besides, there was no allegation by the prosecution that the petitioner has any links with banned organisations, the Court added ordering his release on bail.
The release will be subject to the petitioner furnishing surety bonds to the tune of Rs. 2 lakhs with one surety in the like amount and on the condition that he shall remain present for trial and not harass or intimidate prosecution witnesses or leave the territorial jurisdiction of the court without its prior permission.
The application for bail was presented through advocates Syed Riyaz Khawar, Nazir Ahmad Malik, AM Mir, Munir Ahmad Bhat and Neelofar Masood.