Delhi HC dismisses plea by ex-PFI chairman Abubacker for release in UAPA case

E Abubacker
E Abubacker

New Delhi | The Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea by former chief of the outlawed Popular Front of India (PFI) E Abubacker seeking his release in a case registered against him under anti-terror law UAPA.

Abubacker, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) during a massive crackdown on the organisation in 2022 and is lodged in judicial custody, had approached the high court after the trial court rejected his bail application.

Abubacker sought his release on bail on both merit as well as medical grounds.

A bench headed by Justice Suresh Kumar Kait, while dismissing his appeal against the trial court's decision, said the material on record, including allegations the in charge sheet, statements of the protected witnesses, and the fact that Abubacker was earlier closely associated with SIMI, another banned outfit, showed that the prosecution's case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is prima facie true.

With respect to the medical grounds, the court said the trial court has already issued appropriate directions for his treatment and, if needed, the jail superintendent would immediately rush Abubacker to AIIMS, without seeking any formal directions.

"Resultantly, finding no substance in the present appeal, we hereby dismiss the same.. Appeal stands dismissed accordingly," said the bench, also comprising Justice Manoj Jain.

"There is nothing before us which may suggest infringement of his fundamental rights," it stated.

According to the central anti-terror agency, the PFI, its office bearers and members hatched a criminal conspiracy to raise funds for committing acts of terror in various parts of the country and were organising camps to indoctrinate and train their cadres for this purpose.

Abubacker said he is in his 70s, has Parkinson's disease and also underwent surgery for treatment of cancer. He contended that on merits also he was entitled to bail as the NIA has miserably failed to put together a case against him.

In view of the statements of the protected witnesses, the court observed, the allegations attributed to the appellant were "not in air" and the fact that the PFI was declared an "unlawful organisation" later was not relevant to his prosecution under UAPA.

"We have already taken note of the statements of various witnesses and at this initial juncture, we are unable to hold that weapon-training was merely for protecting the community in case there was any communal violence unleashed against them, as allegedly apprehended," it said.

"Such statements also go on to show that objective of such weapon-training was with the idea of overthrowing the democratically elected government to replace the Constitution of India with a Caliphate Shariya Law.

"The planning of targeted killing of Hindu leaders and attacking the security forces and establishing Caliphate by 2047 would clearly indicate that the target was to challenge the 'unity and sovereignty of India' and not merely to 'overthrow the government'. Thus, the objective and manner of achieving the same, both, seem culpable'," added the court.

The court also said it was not impressed with the argument that the appellant was merely acting in furtherance of the ideology of the organisation.

If such ideology smacks of malafide and is replete with conspiracy related to terrorist acts, adhering to the same would also be punitive, the court said.

"The allegations and averments appearing in charge-sheet coupled with the statements made by the witnesses, including the protected witnesses, the tone and tenor of the speeches made by the appellant, the fact that appellant was earlier closely associated with SIMI and when it was banned, he switched to PFI....

"The manner in which he has been sanctioning amount from PFI bank account and the overall impact of the material so collected by the investigating agency leave no element of uncertainty in our minds about the fact that the case of the prosecution, with respect to the commission of offences falling under Chapter-IV and Chapter-VI of UAPA, is prima facie true," the court held.

Pointing out that he has been incarcerated for less than two years and the case is on the verge of ascertainment of charges, the court said it expected all the accused to extend due assistance to the trial court so that the arguments on charge are advanced well in time and the trial commences.

A large number of alleged PFI activists were detained or arrested in several states during the massive raids preceding the nationwide ban on the organisation in September 2022.

In near-simultaneous raids across the country as part of a multi-agency operation spearheaded by the NIA, a large number of PFI activists were detained or arrested in 11 states for allegedly supporting terrorist activities in the country.

Abubacker was arrested on September 22, 2022.

The arrests were made in states and Union Territories, including Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Puducherry, Delhi and Rajasthan.

The government banned the PFI and several of its associate organisations on September 28, 2022 for five years under the stringent anti-terror law, accusing them of having links with global terror groups like the ISIS.

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