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The Delhi High Court bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva yesterday refused to set aside the ban imposed on Indian Islamic Preacher Zakir Naik’s NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF).
The Ministry of Home Affairs in November 2016 declared the organization as an “unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
The petitioner NGO had claimed that the ban was ultra vires Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. Senior counsel Dinesh Mathur, appearing for the NGO, submitted that the challenge was restricted to the exercise of powers under Section 3(3) [Declaration of an Association as Unlawful] of the Act.
The Home Ministry had decided to place a five-year ban on the organization based on certain speeches and FIRs filed last year. Aggrieved by this, the petitioner had argued that these were “stale materials” and could not be relied upon. It was contended that the allegations mentioned in the MHA notification were against the NGO’s President, members, and employees and not against the NGO itself.
The Centre, represented by ASG Sanjay Jain, stated that there was no legal or constitutional infirmity in the impugned notification and that there were sufficient materials and reasons in support.
The documents relied on for imposing the ban were produced before the Court in a sealed cover by the Centre, which contended that “it would be against public interest” to disclose them.
The impugned notification, however, gave an insight into the reasons for the ban. The notification states,
“IRF and its members, particularly, the founder and President of the said Association, Dr. Zakir Naik, has been encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote, on grounds of religion, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities and groups.
…the statements and speeches made by Dr. Zakir Naik, the President of IRF are objectionable and subversive in nature as he has been extolling the known terrorists like Osama Bin Laden, proclaiming that ‘every Muslim should be a terrorist and claiming that if Islam had indeed wanted, eighty percent of Indian population would not have remained Hindus as they could have been converted “if we wanted” by sword, justifying the suicide bombings, posting objectionable comments against Hindu gods, claiming that Golden Temple may not be as sacred as Mecca and Medina and making other statements which are derogatory to other religions.”
The notification further goes on to contend that statements of some terrorists or arrested ISIS sympathizers revealed that they were inspired by the fundamentalist statements of Dr. Zakir Naik, “clearly indicating the subversive nature of his preachings and speeches”.
Based on the observations made in the notification, the bench held that the contentions of the petitioner NGO were “unsubstantiated”.
The submission of the petitioner that the ban was imposed on stale material and that there was nothing in the notification against the organization, was found by the court to be based on incorrect facts.
The bench held,
“The activities which the petitioner organisation and its president and members are alleged to have indulged in, would clearly come within the purview of “unlawful activity” and since the petitioner organisation and its members are alleged to have been indulging in the said activities it would come within the definition of ‘unlawful association’.”
Justice Sachdeva clarified that the judgment would have no bearing on the proceedings pending before the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal, which shall be free to decide the reference, without being influenced by anything stated by the High Court.
Image taken from here.
Read the full judgment here.