The police invoked Section 130 of the IPC at a later stage against the accused in the tunnel case by considering them as state prisoners and after obtaining sanctions from the government. In other charges leveled against these prisoners, they faced imprisonment for two years. But invoking Section 130 of IPC brought in the possibility of life imprisonment for them if held guilty.
The accused prisoners sought discharge from this particular section and a sessions court in 2016 discharged them by holding that they cannot be considered state prisoners. The accused are facing other sections of IPC and the Prisoners Act. The state government challenged this discharge and argued before the HC that the accused were facing charges of waging war against the nation under Section 121A, sedition under Section 124A, and various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). These charges made them state prisoners.
The accused persons argued that the term ‘state prisoner’ is not defined in the IPC or under any law that was promulgated after independence or in the jail manual. There is no question of treating them as enemies of the state and the term ‘prisoners of war’ has been well defined in international convention. The charge under Section 130 is for aiding state prisoners to escape the jail, but in this case no prisoner escaped the jail. There was no jailbreak at all. Besides, the charge of aiding prisoners to escape cannot be levelled against these prisoners themselves, they submitted.
Justice V D Nanavati opined that the trial court’s order should be quashed because the sessions court unnecessarily had digressed by going into the definition of state prisoner and relied upon the Bengal Regulation-3 of 1818, though it has been repealed. In February, a special court held 49 persons out of 78 guilty of carrying out the blasts killing 56 persons and awarded death to 38.