Supreme Court rejects bail plea by man accused of hanging pro-Khalistan banners at Amritsar flyover

Feb 07, 2024

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the bail plea by an alleged member of the banned terror outfit Sikhs for Justice who was accused of putting up pro-Khalistan cloth banners at a flyover in Amritsar in October 2018 [Gurwinder Singh vs State of Punjab and anr].

In doing so, the Court also rejected an argument that the accused man should be released on bail since there were delays in the trial against him. 

In cases involving grave offences, a mere delay in the trial cannot be used as a ground to grant bail, a bench of Justices MM Sundresh and Aravind Kumar said.

"The material available on record indicates the involvement of the appellant in furtherance of terrorist activities backed by members of banned terrorist organization involving exchange of large quantum of money through different channels which needs to be deciphered and therefore in such a scenario if the appellant is released on bail there is every likelihood that he will influence the key witnesses of the case which might hamper the process of justice," the Court added.

The Court was dealing with case where the accused man and several others were allegedly found hanging cloth banners on which “Khalistan Jindabad” and “Khalistan Referendum 2020” were written at the Pillars Kot Mit Singh Flyover in Amritsar.

The accused man was booked for offences under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), among other charges.

The Punjab Police reported that during its investigation, an entire module of the banned terrorist organisation named “Sikh for Justice” was revealed. in April 2020, the case was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

After its probe, the NIA reported that the accused had received funds through illegal means sent by "Sikhs for Justice" and that those funds were then channeled through hawala towards furthering the Khalistani separatist ideology of demanding a separate State for Sikhs.

The accused was also alleged to have been involved in ancillary terror activities like procuring weapons through the help of an ISI handler.

In April 2023, the Punjab and Haryana High Court order rejected a bail plea filed by the accused after the trial court refused to grant him bail.

This led the accused to file an appeal before the Supreme Court. 

While dealing with this appeal, the top court observed that the principle of "bail, not jail" is alien to UAPA cases.

"The ‘exercise’ of the general power to grant bail under the UAP Act is severely restrictive in scope ... The courts are, therefore, burdened with a sensitive task on hand. In dealing with bail applications under UAP Act, the courts are merely examining if there is justification to reject bail," the Court explained.