Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Thursday granted bail to two activists, who allegedly led an anti-power grid project agitation at Bhangar, while censuring a trial court for having “mechanically” extended their judicial custody under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) charges.
In scathing observations against the trial court, Justice Joymalyo Bagchi said that the magistrate has hopelessly failed to apply his mind independently and that he mechanically affixed his stamp of approval on the investigating agency’s report.
The additional chief judicial magistrate, Baruipur court, had extended the judicial remand of Sarmistha Chowdhury and Pradip Singh Thakur on a plea of the state CID, which is investigating the case, while refusing their bail prayers.
Justice Bagchi granted bail to Chowdhury and Thakur on a bond of Rs 50,000 each and two sureties of like amount.
They were were directed to be present during all hearings in connection with the case before the trial court, failing which the court would be at liberty to cancel their bail.
The two accused, who allegedly led an agitation against setting up of a Power Grid unit at Bhangar in South 24 Parganas district adjacent to the metropolis, were directed not to enter the jurisdiction of Bhangar, Kashipur and Rajarhat police stations till further orders.
CPI(ML) Red Star members Chowdhury and Thakur were arrested from Bhangar in January this year by the CID and were slapped with charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), under which an accused can be placed in remand for up to 180 days.
Justice Bagchi observed that mere application of UAPA does not mean automatic extension of custody up to 180 days.
It is the discretion of the court on the basis of satisfaction with the public prosecutor’s report, indicating reasons thereof for extension of custody.
He observed that the magistrate has to assign firm reasons for extension of custody following expiry of 90-day statutory period.
Perusal of the trial court order shows it has not been done and that extension of custody was given merely on the prayer of the public prosecutor, “betraying surrender of the independence of the judiciary to the executive,” Justice Bagchi observed.
The high court observed that the public prosecutor is supposed to act independently and not relegate himself to be the mouthpiece of the investigating agency, as has happened in the present case.
Observing that judges/magistrates shall record orders strictly in terms of law, Justice Bagchi directed that under no circumstances a judicial officer shall take assistance of external agencies, particularly police officers.
Any deviation or breach of the direction will invite departmental proceedings against the said officer, he directed.