The Uttar Pradesh government cannot withdraw prosecution in terror cases under the central acts without the permission of the Centre, the Allahabad high court held on Thursday.
The ruling was given by the high court's Lucknow bench of justices Devi Prasad Singh, Ajai Lamba and Ashok Pal Singh on questions raised by a two-judge division bench on a Public Interest Litigation filed by Ranjana Agnihotri and five other local lawyers.
The PIL had sought a direction for quashing the order of the UP government for withdrawal of cases against people accused of terrorist activities and serial blasts.
"The Prosecution under central acts cannot be withdrawn without permission of the central government," the three-judge bench said.
"For offences under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosive Substances Act and Arms Act and the offences falling in Chapter VI of the Indian Penal Code or alike offences the executive power of the Union of India extends, hence the permission of the central government with regard to withdrawal of prosecution shall be necessary," it held.
The bench also said that the prosecution cannot be withdrawn without assigning reason.
"If an application is moved for withdrawal from prosecution in a case relating to terrorism and waging of war against the country, specific and special reason has to be assigned," it said.
On June 7 while staying the state government's order to withdraw cases against people accused of terror activities, a division bench of justices Rajeev Sharma and Mahendra Dayal had referred the matter to a larger bench.
The two-judge bench had questioned whether the state government could issue an order for withdrawal of cases without there being any request from the public prosecutor.
It had also raised the question whether the prosecution of offence relating to the central act may be withdrawn without taking permission from the central government. It had further asked, "Whether the state government after giving sanction for prosecution review its own order by issuing orders for withdrawl of the cases."
The larger bench comprising the three judges while answering the questions directed that the case be listed before the appropriate bench.
"We answer the questions referred by the division bench accordingly. Let the case be listed before appropriate bench forthwith," it directed.
The larger bench said that the state government has got power to issue instruction or pass order even after sanction for prosecution has been given in a pending criminal case.
"Subject to condition that the prosecuting officer has to take independent decision with due satisfaction in accordance with the law on his own, before moving the application for withdrawal from prosecution in the trial court," it said.
It said that the state government could issue an order or instruction for withdrawal from prosecution without the request from the public prosecutor in-charge of the case. "It is subject to the rider that the public prosecutor shall apply independent mind and record satisfaction before moving an application for withdrawl from prosecution," the three-judge said.