HC quashes detention of Swapna under COFEPOSA

No relief for Sarith as court upholds his detention

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Friday quashed the preventive detention of Swapna Suresh, accused in the diplomatic channel gold smuggling case, under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities (COFEPOSA) Act, 1974.

The Bench comprising Justice A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Mohammed Nias C.P. passed the verdict on a petition filed by Kumari Prabha, mother of Swapna seeking to produce the detenue now in the Women’s Prison and Correctional Home, Attakulangara, Thiruvananthapuram, challenging the preventive detention order.

Despite the High Court verdict, Swapna will continue to remain in jail as she is yet to get bail in the case registered by the NIA against her.

The court, however, dismissed the petition filed by the mother of P.S. Sarith, another accused against the preventive detention order.

Counsel for Swapna contended that the order of the NIA Special Court rejecting the bail plea of Swapna was not placed by the Customs before the detaining authority.

Court observation

The Bench observed that the omission to consider the Special Court’s order was fatal in the facts of the case. The order could have significantly affected the decision of the detaining authority on the issue of whether the detenue , who was already in custody, was likely to be enlarged on bail.

The court added that rejection of the bail application by the Special Court considering the UAPA case, together with the fact that no fresh bail application had been filed by the detenue till the date of the detention order ought to have engaged the attention of the detaining authority.

The authority ought to have given reasons as to why, despite these facts, it felt that detention under the COFEPOSA Act was necessary. The court, therefore, held that detention was bad in the eye of law.

Upholding the detention order passed against Sarith, the court observed that the detention was not ordered on the mere ground that he was likely to be released on bail but also on the ground that the detaining authority was satisfied the detenue was likely to indulge in the same activity if he was released on bail.

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