The Bombay High Court on Friday granted bail to Iqbal Ahmed Kabir Ahmed, who was arrested in 2016 for allegedly being a part of the ‘Parbhani module’ observing that it was “extremely unlikely that the trial can be completed in near future”.
The terror group was a part of the banned outfit Islamic State (ISIS), which was allegedly planning to carry out an attack on the office of the Superintendent of Police in Parbhani.
A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamdar granted conditional bail to Ahmed, 28, while hearing his appeal against the order of the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court rejecting his bail application.
The HC observed, “The order passed by the special NIA court is quashed. The appellant (Ahmed) shall be released on bail upon furnishing a bond of Rs 1 lakh and one or two solvent sureties of the same amount.”
“In our considered opinion, the further incarceration of the appellant (Ahmed), in the face of extremely unlikely situation of the trial being completed in near future, would be in negation of the protection of life and personal liberty under Article 21 (of Constitution of India),” observed the HC.
Mihir Desai, Ahmed’s counsel, had argued that there was no evidence against him, that the trial in the case is yet to commence and there are over 150 witnesses to be examined. He further stated that he (Ahmed) was charged with attending meeting outside local mosque at Parbhani where discussions were held regarding oppressions of Muslims in India and Syria and those acts should be avenged. Such discussions or advocacy of a particular cause would not fall within the dragnet of an offence, Desai had argued.
Prima facie agreeing with Desai, the judges observed: “In our view, there is considerable substance in the submission of Mr. Desai that the material qua the accused, at the highest, is in the realm of discussions.”
The judges have also observed that recovering an oath form from Ahmed’s house declaring acceptance of one Abi Bakr Al Baghdadi Al Hussaini Al Quraishi as the “Caliph” of the Muslims without subscribing thereto, prima facie, does not appear to be an incriminating circumstance.
The HC took note of the fact that Ahmed has been in custody since August 7, 2016, which is more than five years.
Desai had informed the court that as of April, 19, 2021, the learned special NIA Judge, who would be conducting trial in this case, already has 225 other cases on his file, including 16 NIA special cases, 43 MCOCA special cases and 64 Sessions Cases.
“If all these factors are considered in juxtaposition with each other, there is no likelihood of the instant case being decided within reasonable time in near future,” observed the HC.
While granting bail, the HC directed Ahmed to appear before the NIA twice a week for the first month and then once a week for the next two months. He then has to appear before the NIA once a month till the completion of the trial.
“The appellant shall attend each and every date of the trial and not leave Mumbai without prior permission of the NIA court,” said the HC.
He has further been restrained from tampering with the evidence, from contacting any accused and influencing any witnesses.
Ahmed was arrested on August 7, 2016 and booked under the stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for being part of a terror outfit and under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
According to the prosecution, Ahmed was part of the ‘Parbhani module’ which was purportedly planning to carry out a terror attack on the office of the Superintendent of Police in Parbhani.
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