Four months after the Centre proscribed the Popular Front of India (PFI) and eight of its alleged affiliate entities as “unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), an UAPA Tribunal will hold hearings in Mumbai from Wednesday to Saturday to review the five-year ban.
The Tribunal, to be presided over by Delhi High Court’s Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma, will hold its sittings in a court-room of the Bombay High Court, counter-terror sources said. The Tribunal will hold its sittings from 10 am onwards, sources said. The UAPA Tribunal will review the merits of the Centre’s ban order on PFI and its affiliates by examining evidence to be placed before it, a source said.
The Tribunal via a public notice had asked all those, who are interested in giving evidence, to file their affidavit (in duplicate) with the Registrar, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal, Delhi High Court Building, New Delhi. The Tribunal asked such person/s, who want to submit evidence to it, to remain present in person before it, during Wednesday to Saturday, in its sittings for their “cross-examination”, if any.
Tribunal set up by Centre
The UAPA Tribunal was set up by the Centre, as mandated by UAPA provisions, last October to review whether the ban was justified and should continue as per law. Once an entity is banned under the UAPA, a tribunal is set up by the government to adjudicate whether there is sufficient ground for the decision. According to procedure, the Union Home Ministry requests the Law Ministry to name a sitting judge of the high court as presiding officer of the tribunal. The law minister then requests the chief justice of the concerned high court to recommend a judge to head the tribunal.
“The UAPA Tribunal, as per the provisions of the UAPA, is undertaking the sittings in several states of the country to examine whether the Centre’s five-year ban on PFI and its eight affiliates/ associates was justified or it should be revoked,” the source said. The source said, “NIA as well as Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, which has four cases against PFI members, will be attending the UAPA Tribunal’s sittings in Mumbai to submit their probe details and evidence against PFI.”
Why Centre banned PFI and its affiliates?
The PFI and its eight affiliate outfits were banned under the (UAPA) on September 27 last year, after a nationwide crackdown on their leaders/members across 15 states, including Maharashtra, by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and state counter-terror agencies including the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).
On September 22 last year, coordinated searches were conducted by the NIA, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the state police forces across India at 93 locations, including in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Assam and Madhya Pradesh. The searches were conducted at the houses and offices of the top alleged PFI leaders and members in connection with five cases registered by the NIA, following continued inputs and evidence that the PFI leaders and cadres were involved in “funding of terrorism and terrorist activities, organising training camps for providing armed training and radicalising people to join banned organisations,” according to an NIA source.
Multiple criminal charges against PFI
According to NIA, a large number of criminal cases had been registered by different states over the last few years against the PFI and its leaders and members for their alleged involvement in many violent acts.
Charge sheet against PFI
The Maharashtra ATS had recently filed a chargesheet against alleged five members of the PFI, alleging that the group was striving for bringing Islamic rule to India by 2047. The ATS had arrested five PFI members last year. In its 1,113-page chargesheet filed on February 2, the ATS cited a seven-page booklet ‘India 2047, Towards Rule of Islam in India’, allegedly recovered an accused, which allegedly aimed to turn India into an Islamic-rule. The seized document allegedly provided a roadmap for the overthrow of the government.
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