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‘Merely attending jihadi meetings does not prima facie qualify as a terrorist act under UAPA’: Karnataka HC

The Karnataka HC granted bail to one Saleem Khan, an alleged member of the Al-Hind group, stating that merely attending jihadi meetings of an organisation which is not banned by the government does not constitute a terrorist act under UAPA.

The Karnataka High Court granted bail to an accused named Saleem Khan who was booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), stating that merely attending jihadi meetings and purchasing training material does not prima facie qualify as a terrorist act. Saleem Khan is an alleged member of an organization called Al-Hind, which is allegedly reported to be involved in terrorist activities.

A bench of Justice B Veerappa and Justice S. Rachaiah said while granting bail to Saleem Khan, “Merely attending meetings and becoming Member of Al-Hind Group, which is not a banned organization as contemplated under the Schedule of UA(P) Act and attending jihadi meetings, purchasing training materials, and organizing shelters for co-members is not an offence as contemplated under the provisions of section 2(k) or section 2(m) of UA(P) Act.”

On 10th January 2020, an FIR was registered against 17 accused in the Suddaguntepalya Police Station of Karnataka under the sections 153A, 121A, 120B, 122, 123, 124A, and 125 of the Indian Penal Code and the sections 13, 18, and 20 of the UAPA. Saleem Khan is one of the accused in this case. A special NIA court rejected the bail plea by Saleem Khan and another accused Mohammad Zaid on 29th December 2020. The accused had then approached the high court.

Petitioner’s lawyer advocate S. Balakrishnan submitted that both the accused are members of the Al-hind group which is not a banned terrorist organization according to the UAPA. He added that the accused persons are not members of ISIS, their stand is indicated by the fact that the prosecution has failed to produce any iota of material to prove their stand in any organization. S. Balakrishnan argued that to attract the provisions of section 18 of the UAPA, there must be some material abetting, advising, inciting, and directing anyone to do a terrorist act. In the present case, the prosecution has failed to prove anything on record against the accused persons.

Responding to this argument, special public prosecutor P Prasanna Kumar submitted that the charge sheet depicts that the accused Saleem Khan and Mohammad Zaid had attended several conspiracy meetings with the prime accused Mehboob Pasha in this case and they are directly involved in the offences made out against them in the charge sheet.

The court granted bail to Saleem Khan

The bench ruled that “Section 18A deals with imparting training in terrorism and section 20 deals with punishment for being a member of terrorist gang or organization. In the present case, the prosecution has not produced any material, as could be seen on examination of the charge sheet, against accused Saleem Khan about his involvement in a terrorist act or being a member of a terrorist gang or organization or training terrorism.”

The court further said, “Admittedly, Al-Hind Group is not a terrorist organization as contemplated under section 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Protection) Act, thereby the prosecution has failed to prove the prima facie case for rejection of bail against accused Saleem Khan. Therefore, the trial Court is not justified in rejecting the bail application filed by the accused.”

The court added that in the absence of any prima facie case, a constitutional court cannot be prevented from granting bail to the accused. The court directed that the accused Saleem Khan be released on bail subject to executing a bond of Rupees 2 lakhs.

The bail plea of the other accused was rejected

On the other hand, regarding the other accused Mohammad Zaid, the court noted, “He is associated with the accused Mehboob Pasha for contacting unknown ISIS handlers through the dark web. ISIS is a banned organization as contemplated under the schedule of the UAPA. Accused Mohammad Zaidi was part of the terror group and was involved in furthering the activities of ISIS in India and assisted the prime accused Mehboob Pasha in communicating with the ISIS handler through the dark web and thus committed the punishable offence. Therefore he is not entitled to the discretionary relief of bail.”

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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