In its latest report ‘Banned and Damned: SIMI’s saga with UAPA tribunals’ , the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, a leading civil liberties organisation, has challenged the ban on Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which has been extended till 2019. The extension was formally made after the last tribunal to hear cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act concluded in July, 2014 under Justice Suresh Kait of the Delhi High Court. SIMI has been proscribed under the UAPA since 2001 for alleged “anti-national” activities.
The report points to the continuing trend of acquittals of arrested SIMI activists in trial courts, including the most recent case in Hubli, Karnataka, in which 17 Muslim youths, including some medical and engineering students, were acquitted of terror charges in May this year. Despite the trend of acquittals of SIMI activists in the last 14 years, the tribunals have not reckoned it while extending ban orders on the organisation, the report notes.
PUDR secretary and human rights activist Gautam Navlakha told The Hindu that the V.G. Row judgment of 1952 had set out quite clearly that the reasonableness of restrictions on any given organisation will have to be clearly defined in order for the proscribing of an organisation’s activities to continue. The Supreme Court judgment in that case had laid down that the state will have to specify the grounds on which it issues notifications for the banning any form of associational activity.
“The current ban on SIMI under the UAPA is in contempt of this judgment as the necessary grounds supporting the ban notifications have not been provided by the government,” he said.
In 2008, Justice Gita Mittal had lifted the SIMI ban citing lack of adequate grounds to continue the ban, but the Tribunals under the UAPA in 2001, 2003 and 2006 had violated the Act as they merely ratified the government notification without examining its reasonableness.
The report has also questioned the usefulness of curbing violent Islamic ideologies by extending the SIMI ban. “Laws like UAPA help the state to invent new categories of crimes based on intention through which the government can target organisations and its members. Studies have shown that the sectarian nature of application of the Act’s provisions have caused numerous hardships for Muslim men who stand accused under it,” said Sharmila Purkayastha, one of the authors of the report, also a faculty member in Delhi University.