A Special NIA Court in Delhi on Monday ruled that mere possession of Jihadi literature would not amount to an offence under Section 20 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). [NIA vs Mohd. Ameen @ Abhu Yahya & Ors.]
Special Judge Dharmesh Sharma held that mere possession of Jihadi literature of particular religious philosophy would not amount to an offence under Section 20 unless there was material to show execution of such philosophy to carry out terrorist acts.
"Further, to hold that mere possession of Jihadi literature having a particular religious philosophy would amount to an offence, though such literature is not expressly or specifically banned under any provision of law, if not fathomable in law unless and until there is material about execution of such philosophy so as to do terrorist acts.," the Court stated.
Such a proposition runs counter to the freedoms and rights guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution, it added.
The Court was framing charges in respect of eleven accused in a case by National Investigating Agency (NIA) related to propagation of ideology of the banned organization ISIS via various channels on the internet.
The accused were arraigned for trial for commission of offences punishable under Sections 120B (Criminal Conspiracy) and 121A (Waging war against the Government of India) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 17 (Raising funds for terrorist act), 18 (Conspiracy), 18B (Recruiting of any person for a terrorist act), 20 (Being a member of a terrorist organization), 38, 39 and 40 of the UAPA.
Section 20 of UAPA prescribes punishment for being a member of terrorist gang or organisation.
Special Judge Dharmesh Sharma noted that although the accused probably aspired to become members of ISIS, there was no evidence to prove that they had been active members.
Finally, the Court found that no prima facie case was made out to frame charges under section 121-A of IPC and Sections 18, 18B, 20 or 17 read with 40 of UAPA.
However, it determined that there was a prima facie case to frame charges under Section 120B of IPC read with sections with 2 (o) and 13 of UAPA along with Sections 38 and 39 of UAPA in respect of eight of the accused since, apart from accessing provocative literature, they were also actively disseminating it while seeking support from like minded people.
In respect of one accused, Obaid Hamid Matta, the court ruled that he did not profess to be a member of the banned organization but indulged in other unlawful activities and, thereby, committing offences under Section 2(o) read with Section 13 of UAPA.
A 26-year-old accused, arrested on the charge of funding terror activities, was discharged as the court found that he never professed to be a member of ISIS and that he did not do anything to further the activities of the organization.