Just being member of banned outfit not a crime: Supreme Court
The apex court's Friday ruling is part of a judgment acquitting Arup Bhuyan, convicted by a Guwahati court under the now lapsed anti-terror law Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. Bhuyan was a suspected member of the outlawed secessionist outfit United Liberation Front of Assam ( Ulfa) which figures at the top of the home ministry`s list of banned organizations.
"Mere membership of a banned organization will not make a person a criminal unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence or creates public disorder by violence or incitement to violence," a Bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra said.
The order can have a bearing on the plans of outlawed outfits which include terror and insurgent groups. The list of 32 banned organizations on the website of ministry of home affairs includes al-Qaida, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Students` Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), CPI(M-L) and allied formations, militant groups active in north-eastern states, Khalistan Commando Force, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, International Sikh Youth Federation, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen and Al Badr.
Exactly a month ago, the same Bench had upheld bail to a doctor arrested for treating a man accused of chopping off the hand of a Kerala professor for setting a controversial question paper.
The January 3 judgment had said, "Mere membership of a banned organization will not incriminate a person unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence or does an act intended to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence."
The trial court had convicted Bhuyan based on his confession to police, admissible as evidence under TADA. Bhuyan had appealed in Supreme Court.
Allowing his petition, the court said his conviction was based on "a very weak kind of evidence" and could not be sustained in the absence of corroborative material.
On the confessions, Justices Katju and Misra expressed strong views. "As is well known, the widespread and rampant practice in the police in India is to use third-degree methods for extracting confessions from the alleged accused. Hence, the courts have to be cautious in accepting confessions made to the police by the alleged accused," the Bench said.
Police often extracted confession from an accused because they were neither trained nor equipped with gadgets to conduct scientific investigation like their western counterparts, the Bench said, adding, "Hence, to obtain a conviction, they often rely on the easy short-cut of procuring a confession under torture." The court added, "Torture is such a terrible thing that when a person is under torture, he will confess to almost any crime. Even Joan of Arc confessed to be a witch under torture."
Read more: Just being member of banned outfit not a crime: Supreme Court - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Just-being-member-of-banned-outfit-not-a-crime-Supreme-Court/articleshow/7428601.cms#ixzz1D2vCXIK9
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
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