Payment of extortion money does not amount to terror funding: SC

4/10/2021

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The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to a businessman who was accused of paying money to the operatives of Maoist terror group Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) for smooth running his coal transport business in Jharkhand.

A bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat said: "A close scrutiny of the material placed before the court would clearly shows that the main accusation against the appellant is that he paid levy/extortion amount to the terrorist organisation. Payment of extortion money does not amount to terror funding."

Allowing bail to businessman Sudesh Kedia, the bench observed that giving protection money cannot be equated with raising funds for promoting the banned organisation. Kedia was engaged in business of transporting coal on behalf of GVK Power and Godavari Commodities.

The top court said it is clear from the supplementary charge sheet and the other material on record that other accused who are members of the terrorist organisation have been systematically collecting extortion amounts from businessmen in Amrapali and Magadh areas.

It was alleged that Kedia paid money to the TPC for smooth running of his business. "Prima facie, it cannot be said that the appellant conspired with the other members of the TPC and raised funds to promote the organisation," the bench noted.

It was also alleged that Kedia was meeting members of the terror organisation and he was in constant touch with them. However, Kedia, in a statement before the magistrate, said he was summoned by members of the organisation in connection with the payments.

The court said: "Prima facie, we are not satisfied that a case of conspiracy has been made out at this stage only on the ground that the appellant met the members of the organisation" as it set aside the Jharkhand High Court order of February 14, 2020, which declined to grant bail to Kedia, in the case registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other laws.

The top court also did not agree with prosecution submissions that Rs 9.95 lakh recovered from the house of the accused was "terror fund", taking into account Kedia's version that the amount was meant for salaries to his employees.

"At this stage, it cannot be said that the amount seized from the appellant is proceeds from terrorist activity. There is no allegation that appellant was receiving any money. On the other hand, the Appellant is accused of providing money to the members of TPC," it said.

Source: IANS

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