After spending more than six years in jail, Areeb Majeed, the lone arrested alleged terrorist of the IS outfit, would now finally walk out of prison. This comes after the Bombay High Court on Tuesday granted him bail with stringent conditions.
A bench of Justices Sambhaji Shinde and Manish Pitale said that Majeed, cannot be allowed to languish in the jail when the trial in the case is proceeding at a snail's pace.
"We have observed that he is an educated person, who was completing his graduation in Civil Engineering when he left for Iraq at the age of 21 years. He categorically stated before us that as a 21 year old, he was carried away and that he had committed a serious mistake, for which he had already spent more than six years behind bars," the judges noted.
"His father is a doctor of Unani medicine and his sisters are also doctors. His brother is an engineer. This shows that he comes from an educated family and if stringent conditions are imposed upon him, with an undertaking to cooperate with the trial, his release may not be harmful to the society at large and it would not adversely affect the trial," the judges added.
Majeed (27) a resident of neighbouring Kalyan, was arrested in November 2014 by the NIA on the grounds that he being an active member of IS, had executed several terrorist activities in Iraq and Syria and had returned to India only to cause terrorism. He is also accused of plotting to blow the Police Headquarters in the city.
As per the NIA case, Majeed had been to Iraq along with few other locals of Kalyan on a pilgrimage trip. However, they did not go to the pilgrimage points but instead indulged in to terrorist activities with the IS.
Justice Shinde's bench was seized with NIA's plea challenging the special court's March 2020 order by which Majeed's third bail application was allowed on merits.
The special court after rejecting Majeed's bail plea twice on merits had allowed it in March on the ground that out of the 49 witnesses examined so far by the prosecution, 12 have turned hostile and the others haven't been sufficient enough to prove a prima facie case against him.
However, to this part of the reasoning, Justice Shinde's bench said the special court erred in giving such a finding, which was contradicting to its own findings given twice in Majeed's bail plea.
"We are of the opinion that these fresh grounds on which the NIA Court proceeded in the present case in Majeed's favour, cannot be said to be fresh grounds at all and merely because some of the prosecution witnesses stood already examined, it could not be a ground for re-visiting the findings already rendered against him" the judges said.
However, the bench led by Justice Shinde in its 38-page judgment noted that the trial in the case is not expected to complete in the next few years.
"There is no dispute about the fact that right to fair and speedy trial is a right recognized under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The courts have consistently held that undertrials cannot be allowed to languish for years together in jail, while the trials proceed at snail’s pace," the bench observed, adding that if at the end of the trial the accused isn't found guilty, the time spent in jail cannot be given back and the same would amount to violation of right to dignified life.
The judges also stressed on the need to strike a balance between the rights of the accused booked under stringent laws and also the rights of the society at large.
The bench further took into account the fact that even if Majeed is booked under the stringent UAPA law for terrorist activities, he did not cause loss of any life. It further considered the fact that in examining around 51 witnesses in the case the NIA took more than five years and it is yet to examine 107 more witnesses.
The fact that the offences Majeed has been booked for, provide imprisonemnt ranging from five years to lifetime is also considered by the judges especially after noting that he has already spent six years in jail.