The “non-application of mind” in adding Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or UAPA, charges in a case needs to be curbed, the Punjab and Haryana High Court said on Tuesday, reported Live Law.

The High Court also passed directions to curb the misuse of the anti-terrow law while granting bail to two men named Pankaj Rajput and Chetan Sehdev, who were booked for attempted murder in 2022.

The police had alleged that the men were part of a group who were drinking alcohol in front of the complainant’s house. The group got into an altercation with the complainant when he asked them to stop creating a nuisance. It was during the altercation that the accused persons fired upon the complainant and his relatives.

The police had booked the two men under the Arms Act and later, provisions of the anti-terror law were also added in the first information report.

However, the police had later removed the UAPA charges from the chargesheet filed before the trial court.

As a special criminal law that deals with terrorism, the UAPA has a stringent provision that bars the courts from awarding bail if, from a perusal of the case diary or the chargesheet, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the accusation against a person is prima facie true.

In its order, the High Court noted the response of the Ludhiana police commissioner who had said that the offence under Section 13 of the UAPA Act was added to the FIR after an investigation found that the accused persons had formed a gang and used to engage in fights with the public, causing “panic and fear in the society,” reported Live Law.

However, the commissioner also said that their investigation found that the provisions of Section 13 of the UAPA were not applicable in this case. The state also told the court that the offence under UAPA was later deleted and the addition was done on “misinterpretation” of the provision by the police.

A bench of Justices Sureshwar Thakur and Sudeepti Sharma, in it order, pulled up the police for adding the anti-terror law sections.

“Despite knowing the stringency of the policy, gross misinterpretation have been done, you need to be careful while dealing with UAPA,” the court said, reported Live Law. “It cannot be used as a tool for harassment. This is complete extortionate policing and not fair policing, you need to be thorough with your work.”

The High Court then passed a series of directions to the police to prevent such cases.

The order directed the police commissioner to monitor the investigation on a daily basis in cases where the investigating officer is collecting evidence to add an offence under the UAPA.

The High Court also asked the police that there should be an “application of mind” to the incriminatory material collected against the prospective accused persons under the anti-terror law. This is to ensure that the inclusion of offences under the law are absolutely necessary, it said.

“In case there is dereliction of duty on the part of police, the director general of police, Punjab, shall ensure appropriate action against the erring officer in accordance with law,” the High Court order added.