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Terrorism knows no age, NIA tells Supreme Court

A view of National Investigation Agency (NIA), in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

A remark from the Supreme Court on Wednesday that two Kerala youths accused under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for Maoist links are but “young boys” saw the National Investigation Agency (NIA) respond that “terrorism knows no age” and “Naxalites, Maoists are very sharp, shrewd people” who cover their tracks.

Arguing against their bail before a Bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Abhay S. Oka, Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, for the NIA, said it was not as if the duo were “caught reading Karl Marx”. The “incriminating” material found on students Thwaha Fasal and Allan Shuhaib, in their twenties, clearly drew the “inference” that they were “members of a terror organisation”, the law officer said.

“Terrorism knows no age. There are enough instances of young people involved in terrorism. They catch them young as they are amenable,” Mr. Raju said.

But the court then asked the law officer why Section 20 of the UAPA, which dealt with punishment for being a member of a terror organisation, was dropped against the two young men in the chargesheet filed by the NIA.

The NIA has chargesheeted the two young men and another for associating and supporting a terror organisation. If found guilty, these offences attract either a fine or imprisonment up to 10 years. However, being a member of a terror organisation is a far graver offence. It is punished with imprisonment up to life.

“Are you basically saying that you can just infer that a person is a member of a terror organisation merely from the nature of the material found in his house? Have they been incarcerated for months on the basis of your inference? Where is the incriminating material to show they are members,” Justice Rastogi asked.

Mr. Raju said investigators found 15 Maoist notices ostensibly for distribution, literature urging armed revolution and independence for Jammu and Kashmir and loads of electronic evidence. Besides, the law officer said, the duo were clandestinely meeting with a known “semi-underground” Maoist leader. He contended that “ordinarily a student will not have 15 notices of a banned organisation or hold meetings with a member of a banned organisation... We can safely infer that he is a member.”

The Additional Solicitor General said the court cannot expect the investigating agency to produce a paper slip showing a person’s membership in a Maoist organisation.

“Naxalites and Maoists are very sharp, shrewd people. It is very difficult for investigating agencies to track evidence or build a case,” Mr. Raju reasoned. At one point the law officer said the evidence of membership was a confession from the accused.

“But this is not TADA [under TADA, a person’s confession can be relied upon for his own conviction],” Justice Oka retorted.

Mr. Raju said the alleged acts of the duo cannot be dismissed as “innocuous”.

“Naxals need the help of these persons to take forward their agenda... The lives of not only citizens but the armed forces are at stake here. They will destroy the country,” he argued.

The court noted that Fasal and Shuhaib have been in jail for months. “God knows when charges will be framed,” Justice Rastogi said.

Mr. Raju said, instead of bail, the apex court could order the trial judge to frame charges in two months and conclude the trial in a year.

Countering for Fasal, senior advocate Jayant Muthuraj said the police had not found any incriminating material on the two youths, except a copy of the Madhav Gadgil report on the ecology of Western Ghats, at the time of arrest.

Senior advocate R. Basant, for Shuhaib, said the very fact that the accused have been chargesheeted only for associating or supporting a banned organisation pre-supposes that they were not members of the outfit.

Mr. Basant would continue his submissions on Thursday.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 2:11:31 AM |

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