New Delhi, October 7
The Delhi High Court on Friday sought the NIA's response to a plea by an alleged PFI activist, arrested during a massive crackdown on the radical Islamist outfit before it was banned, seeking a copy of the FIR registered against the members of the organisation and the grounds for arrest of each of them.
Over 200 alleged PFI activists were detained or arrested in several states during the massive raids preceding the nation-wide ban imposed on September 28.
Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta issued notice to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on a petition filed by Mohd Yusuff, who was arrested from his residence in Chennai on September 22 in the case lodged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the stringent anti-terror law.
During the hearing, the counsel for the NIA submitted the Additional Solicitor General, who was to argue the case, was unwell, after which the court listed the matter for October 10.
Petitioner Yusuff, who claims to be a practising advocate, sought a direction to the NIA to provide him a copy of the FIR lodged by the agency in Delhi on April 13 and also the documents listing the grounds of arrest of each accused person.
He also sought a copy of the remand applications filed by the NIA before a trial court.
The petitioner said he was arrested around 3 AM on September 22 from his residence in Chennai by the NIA along with others, who all were picked up from different parts of the country and brought to the national capital by the agency in connection with the case lodged in Delhi.
“At the time of his arrest, the respondent (NIA) did not communicate to the petitioner any particulars of the offence for which he has been arrested or any grounds of such arrest in clear violation of the statutory mandate provided under Section 50 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) read with Article 22(1) of the Constitution,” the plea submitted.
It said when the accused were produced before a trial court here, their counsel sought a copy of the FIR lodged on September 22 as well as on September 26.
However, the additional sessions judge (ASJ) rejected the application filed by the petitioner on the ground that the matter is of a sensitive nature and that providing a copy of the FIR will hamper the investigation, the petitioner submitted.
“Till date the petitioner is unaware of the particulars of the offences or the allegations against him despite being in the custody of the respondent since September 22.
"The ASJ failed to appreciate that Section 50 CrPC clearly provides that every police officer arresting any person without warrant is required to communicate to such person the full particulars of the offence for which he is arrested or other grounds for such arrest. No such information has been given to the petitioner till date,” the petition said.
It added Article 22(1) of the Constitution prohibits the detention of a person arrested and in custody without being informed of the grounds of such arrest.
The plea said denial of a copy of the FIR, circumscribing the allegations and particulars of the offences against the accused persons, is a clear violation of the principles of natural justice and the accused person's right to fair trial and investigation.
The plea claimed the trial court failed to appreciate that an accused is entitled to a copy of the first information report at an earlier stage.
It contended the trial court also failed to consider that the Supreme Court has, in a previous matter, categorically held that even in cases where decisions have been taken not to give copies of the FIR due to the sensitive nature of the case, an accused is entitled to a copy of such FIR within three days of filing an application before the court concerned to which the FIR has been sent.
“The ASJ failed to appreciate that the Supreme Court did not create any distinction between different FIRs involving sensitive offences, including offences relating to insurgency, terrorism, etc. and provided that in all such cases, without exception, the accused is entitled to receive a copy of the FIR from the concerned court,” the plea said.
The government banned the PFI and several of its associate organisations on September 28 for five years under the stringent anti-terror law UAPA, accusing them of having "links" with global terror groups like the ISIS.
In connection with the FIR registered in Delhi, the NIA arrested 19 cadres of the PFI from different parts of the country.
Out of these 19 people, 16 are in judicial custody and three in NIA custody till October 10.
In near-simultaneous raids across the country as part of a multi-agency operation spearheaded by the NIA, over 200 PFI activists were detained or arrested in 11 states for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country.
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.
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