Supreme Court, Manipur
On August 1, the top court said there was a complete breakdown of law and order and constitutional machinery in Manipur | File photo

SC axes its 2011 verdict on membership of banned outfits

In an important reversal, the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday held as bad in law a 2011 verdict that mere membership of a banned outfit won’t make a person criminal unless he indulges in violence or incites people to do likewise.

A bench of Justices MR Shah, CT Ravikumar and Sanjay Karol held that even mere membership of a banned organisation will make a person criminal and liable to be prosecuted under provisions of UAPA.

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The judges said that subsequent decisions passed by high courts pursuant to its two-judge verdict of 2011 on membership of banned outfits were bad in law and overruled.

The court, while allowing petitions of the Centre and the Assam government seeking a review of the 2011 verdict, said the Union government must be heard when a provision enacted by Parliament was read down.

American view

The SC said the 2011 verdict was passed while relying on an American court decision which cannot be done without considering conditions in India.

“In India right to freedom of speech and expressions is not absolute and is subject to reasonable restriction. However, decisions of the American court can be a guiding light,” the bench said.

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On February 9, the SC, while reserving its verdict on batch of review pleas, noted that the Union of India was not heard by the two-judge bench when the 2011 verdict read down section 3 (5) of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (now repealed).

On February 3, 2011, the court acquitted suspected ULFA member Arup Bhuyan, who was held guilty by a TADA court on the basis of his confessional statement before a Superintendent of Police, saying mere membership of a banned outfit will not make a person a criminal unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence.

Similar views were taken by the apex court in two other verdicts of 2011 in Indra Das versus State of Assam and State of Kerala versus Raneef.

(With agency inputs)

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