SC notice on centre's plea to clarify banned group member order

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 07, 2013 17:00 hrs

New Delhi, Jan 7 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the alleged ULFA activists Arup Bhuyan and Sri Indra Das on a petition by the central government seeking clarification of the apex court's earlier judgment holding mere membership of a banned organization was not a crime.

A bench of Justice G.S.Singhvi and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra issued notice after Additional Solicitor General Mohan Prasaran sought the court's clarification on its Feb 4, 2011 order.

The Feb 4, 2011, order passed by a bench of Justice Misra and Justice Markandey Katju (since retired) said that section 3(5) of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (since repealed) could not be read literally, otherwise it would violate Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

"Hence, mere membership of a banned organisation 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," it said, setting aside the order passed in a TADA case March 28, 2007, by the designated court in Guwahati.

Bhuyan, the petitioner, was alleged to be a member of ULFA and convicted under Section 3(5) of TADA which made mere membership of a banned organisation a criminal offence.

"Even assuming he was a member of ULFA, it has not been proved that he was an active member and not a mere passive member," said the Feb 4 judgement.

The only material that was produced by the prosecution against him before the designated court was Bhuyan's alleged confessional statement made before the superintendent of police, the apex court had noted.

While holding that a confession was admissible in TADA cases under Section 15 of the act, the court had said that confession is a very weak kind of evidence.

"As is well known, the widespread and rampant practice by 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," it said.

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