SC comes to rescue of extortion victim

A Ranchi-based businessman was jailed for being victim of extortion by terrorists

Mahesh Anand |

Supreme Court

A recent Supreme Court order, for the nth time, has highlighted the plight of the Indian citizen by asserting that a victim of extortion cannot be kept in jail. That the country’s highest court has to point this out is a sad commentary on the state of civil liberties. A two-judge Bench, under Justice L. Nageswara Rao and also comprising Justice Ravindra Bhat, spelt out this self-evident truth.

But this happened only after Sudesh Kedia, a Ranchi-based coal businessman, had spent time in jail. He was booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. “A close scrutiny of the material placed before the court would clearly show that the main accusation against the Appellant is that he paid levy/extortion amount to the terrorist organization. Payment of extortion money does not amount to terror funding,” the Bench said.

It was a double whammy for Kedia: a terrorist outfit squeezed money from him; and the law enforcement officers prosecuted him for the unpardonable crime of getting robbed! To make the matters worse for him, the local court and the Jharkhand High Court did not give him relief.

This is how the situation is evolving in India. The state is arrogating more and more power to itself not just by ways of laws, rules, and regulations, but also by indulging in practices that should have been unthinkable in a liberal democracy. Like initiating the prosecution of a victim under a strict law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Worse, it is just not the arrogation of power; it is coupled with, indeed preceded by, dereliction of duty. First, the state failed to stop the terrorist group from operating and bullying businessmen like Kedia. Then, the cops further terrorized and victimized Kedia.

Apparently, the cops’ expectation from the people like Kedia is that they should fight against terrorists—or help them fight against such felons. The state fails to protect citizens, for this only emboldens terrorists so much that they extort money from businesspersons. And for the state’s failure, a businessman has to pay!

This is all topsy-turvy. The victim is vilified and prosecuted. The apex court has done the right thing by granting bail to the victim of extortion.

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