Delhi HC transfers non-UAPA cases from NIA courts to speed up terror case trials
Many accused in 37 UAPA cases have been languishing in jail pending trial since 2013, the Delhi high court was told by the administration.
The Delhi high court has said that the two designated National Investigation Agency (NIA) courts will exclusively deal with terrorism cases, and all other cases, barring those under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) will be transferred to three new courts -- a decision that is likely to expedite trial in 37 such cases in which 139 accused are in judicial custody.
The decision was announced by the high court administration in a status report filed before Justice Manoj Ohri, in response to a plea by an accused who is facing charges under the UAPA, being probed by NIA.
Many of the accused in the 37 UAPA cases have been languishing in jail pending trial since 2013, the court was informed in an affidavit filed in December 2021 by the administration.
The high court’s registry had also said that there are more than 3500 witnesses that have been cited so far in the cases. The statistics were given to the court on a specific query by the judge on the pendency of the NIA and UAPA cases.
“All other cases pending before the said two courts of ASJ-02 and ASJ-03 be immediately withdrawn and be assigned to the newly created ASJ courts by the Principal District and Sessions Judge, New Delhi while ensuring equitable distribution,” the administration said in the affidavit.
The court was hearing a plea by an accused Manzer Imam, who has been in custody for eight year in an NIA case under UAPA. Imam through his counsel had sought day-to-day hearing in his case.
In his plea, Imam stated that there was a delay in trial in his case on account of there being only two designated courts which were also hearing non-NIA cases including bail matters, other IPC offences and MCOCA matters.
On December 17, 2021, the last date of hearing of the Manzer Imam case, high court judge Mukta Gupta directed the high administration to indicate the steps taken in order to streamline expeditious disposal of trials in UAPA cases pending before NIA special courts in the national capital.
The court had also said that it is paramount that offences under UAPA, whether investigated by NIA or Delhi Police’s Special Cell are tried by special designated courts, which do not have other matters before it, to expedite the trial.
In its response, the high court administration through its counsel Gaurav Agrawal told the court that it has been decided that one of the newly created courts will be the designated to try the sessions cases being investigated by the special cell.
It has also added that the matter regarding the posting of officers of Delhi Higher Judicial Services (DHJS) in the newly created courts, rationalization of work and utilization of two courts rooms, post shifting of five courts of MM (NI Act) to the Rouse Avenue Court Complex, is already under submission, for placing it before the Transfer Committee.
Imam has been booked under UAPA and other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). He was arrested in the year 2013.
The plea was therefore filed seeking directions that Special NIA Courts must deal exclusively with NIA investigated scheduled offenses so that trials must be expeditiously heard by such courts.