Lucknow, Dec. 12: The Uttar Pradesh government cannot withdraw charges against terror suspects without the Centre’s permission, Allahabad High Court said today, halting moves for such relief the ruling Samajwadi Party had promised the minority community before last year’s polls.
The order by a full bench of the court effectively forbids the Akhilesh Yadav-led administration from withdrawing charges against 19 suspects of the minority community in custody over a series of blasts dating back to 2006 and 2007 when Mayawati was chief minister.
But the government said this evening that it would “explore” options, including appealing in the Supreme Court and approaching the Centre.
Acting on a batch of PILs, a division bench had in June this year stayed moves to release the suspects and referred the matter to the full bench of the court because of its sensitivity.
The release plan was seen as a key element of the Samajwadis’ plan to woo the minority community ahead of next year’s general elections.
But the court today said that as the suspects had been booked for “offences under central laws”, the Centre’s “permission shall be necessary for withdrawal of prosecution”. The laws include the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosive Substances Act, the Arms Act and others.
“For offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosive Substances Act and Arms Actů. the executive power of the Union of India extends. Hence, the permission of the central government with regard to withdrawal of prosecution shall be necessary,” the bench of Justices D.P. Singh, Ajay Lamba and Ashok Pal Singh said in their verdict.
Besides, any application moved for withdrawal of prosecution related to terrorism and waging of war against the country must assign “specific and special reasons”, the bench said.
Advocate Ranjana Agnihotri, one of those who had filed the PILs, had argued in her plea that the release plan was “illegal”, as were the government’s applications sent to lower courts for the withdrawal of the cases. The suspects were held over the blasts in Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Lucknow and Rampur between 2006 and 2007.
State minority affairs minister Azam Khan said the government would “study” today’s order and the law department would be asked to explore the possibilities of moving the Supreme Court.
“The state law department will study the verdict, examine the rationale given by the court for the rejection of the government’s decision and see if it is possible to move the Supreme Court against it,” the senior Samajwadi leader, seen as the party’s minority face, said.
Khan said the government would also see if it could directly approach the Centre, as the order stressed, seeking to withdraw what he termed “false cases against innocent” members of the minority community.
The release plan was part of the Samajwadi manifesto for the elections of March last year in which the party came back to power unseating Mayawati.
During hearings before the division bench in May and June this year, the judges had asked the government whether it could issue orders for withdrawal of the cases without any request from the public prosecutors.
Today’s order by the full bench dwelt on the question. It explained that the prosecuting officer must take an “independent decision with due satisfaction in accordance with the law on his own before moving any application for withdrawal”.