Kerala gold smuggling case: NIA on the defensive as it fails to produce credible evidence in court
Four months have passed since the NIA began investigating the case. Still, it has not been able to produce credible evidence
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has come under tremendous pressure in the wake of the NIA court in Kochi seeking clarification on whether it had evidence to prove the terrorism angle in the gold smuggling case.
The court has been unsparing in its criticism of the probe into the gold smuggling case. The court said it could not indefinitely wait for the NIA to produce evidence. Four months have passed since the NIA began investigating the case. Still, it has not been able to produce credible evidence.
What has put the NIA on the defensive is the fact that court continues to ask for proof even after it has gone through the case diary the agency submitted before the court. In a further rebuff to the NIA, the court said if there is no credible evidence, it will have to give a ruling in favour of the accused in the case.
The court is set to give its verdict in the case on Tuesday. The big question doing the rounds is: Has the NIA managed to furnish clinching evidence to prove that the money made out of smuggling gold has been used to fund terrorist activities? If there is no credible evidence, all the accused in the case are bound to get bail. Such a denouement will cause a severe dent in the reputation and credibility of the NIA.
The court specifically asked Assistant Solicitor General P. Vijayakumar, who appeared for the NIA via Google Meet, whether it maintains the charges as stated in the FIR invoking Section 16 (punishment for terrorist activities), 17 (funding terrorist activities) and 18 (conspiracy for terrorist activities) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
In its counter-affidavit, the NIA has opposed the bail plea. But it did not mention that the smuggled gold was intended to fund terrorist activities in the country. Instead, it said the smuggled gold would destabilize the country’s economic security, which is also a terrorist activity under Section 15 of the UAPA.
The defence counsel, in his argument, pointed out that the NIA has not specified in the FIR registered on July 10 that the proceeds of the smuggled gold were to be used for funding terrorist activities in the country.
NIA countered this argument by claiming that the accused intentionally wanted to destabilize economic security of the nation, which amounted to terrorist activity under Section 15 of the UAPA.
The court also asked the NIA to list out the 30 accused into three categories – those directly involved in smuggling activities, the conspirators and those who invested money for smuggling gold.
The court’s remarks came after it heard the counsel of the eight accused, including prime accused Mohammed Shafi.
At stake is the reputation of the NIA, which is facing criticism that the probe has already run in to a dead end. Much depends on the NIA court’s judgment on Tuesday. If the accused secure bail, it would amount to a slap in the face of the NIA. No wonder, the investigating agency is feeling the pressure.
Meanwhile, Swapna Suresh, the main accused in the case, has secured bail in the customs case. The Additional Judicial Magistrate (economic offences) court granted the bail. But Swapna won’t be released as she is an accused in a case registered by the NIA.