A Delhi court on Friday discharged three men who were arrested and booked by the National investigation Agency (NIA) for allegedly being key operatives of Indian Mujahideen (IM). Those discharged include Abdul Wahid Sidibappa, a driver who worked in Dubai and has been in jail since 2016, and Manzar Imam, a former Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) member lodged in prison since 2013. Ariz Khan, who had already been sentenced to capital punishment in the 2008 Batla House murder case, too was discharged.
Additional Sessions Judge Shailender Malik of the Patiala House Court however framed charges against 11 accused in the case, mostly under various sections of Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA). The trial court took almost a decade to frame charges.
The matter pertains to a case lodged by the NIA in September 2012 against suspected members of IM and IM modules based in the country. The members, according to the agency, were collectively conspiring to commit terror acts like bomb blasts at prominent places across India. The NIA, in multiple chargesheets filed in this case, maintained that the accused had support from their Pakistan-based operatives and associates and aimed to wage war against the Government of India.
Advocate M.S. Khan, counsel for Mr. Siddibappa maintained that his client remained in jail due to “inordinate delay” in the trial of a case registered in 2012.
Mr. Sidibappa, a resident of Bhatkal in Karnataka, is said to be the cousin of Mohammad Ahmed Siddibappa alias Yasin Bhatkal, co-founder of IM. He was arrested from the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi on May 20, 2016.
NIA had alleged that Mr. Sidibappa was instrumental in channelising terror funds received from IM operatives in Pakistan through hawala transactions via Dubai for use of IM operatives based in India for conducting terrorist activities. The agency had produced a couple of witnesses from Dubai to testify to Mr. Siddibappa’s IM connection but court rejected charges of any direct link of the accused with the terrorist organisation.
“It must be noted that these witnesses are based in Dubai. These witnesses themselves are involved in hawala business. If their statement is taken on the face of it, maximum what comes in the judicial cognizance from these statements is that the accused was working as a driver with one of the witnesses who had a business of hawala transaction in Dubai and on certain occasions the accused had sent money through hawala to his wife at Bhatkal,” the court said.
It added that mere sending of money through hawala network may be illegal but does not establish commission of offence of Section 17 of UAPA, as it deals with raising of funds with the knowledge that such funds are to be used or likely to be used by terrorist organisation or for commission of terrorist act.
The court also discharged Mr. Siddibappa from charges under Sections 18, 20, 38(2) and 39(2) of UAPA as well as 120B of IPC in the absence of concrete evidence that proves he is an IM terrorist.
Similarly the NIA had also accused Mr. Imam, a former SIMI member, as one of the conspirators of the IM. The agency alleged that he “started personally motivating several persons” to join IM and “motivated people on religious lines” to wage war against India.
Mr. Imam was arrested in March 2013 and was booked under Sections 17, 18, 18B and 20 of UAPA and Sections 121A and 123 of IPC.
The counsel of the accused, Mr. Abu Bakr Sabbaq, mentioned in the court that his client was with SIMI as it was one of the huge Muslim student organisations and his client had already been convicted for being associated with SIMI in a case registered in Kerala. He also mentioned how Mr. Imam was discharged in certain clubbed FIRs in Ahmedabad.
The court maintained that none of the different witnesses in present case have stated anything incriminating about Mr. Imam having associated with IM.
“Perusal of the judgment in Kerala case as well as order in Ahmedabad case show that although accused Manzar Imam was found involved in participating in terrorist camp in Kerala while being associated with SIMI but beside that nothing is proved on the record... There is nothing on the record to establish that Imam was in any manner was connected with Indian Mujahideen,” the court said while discharging Imam.