SIMIs Saga with
Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi
Trials and Tribulations of Tribunals 02
Box: NIA and SIMI
Box: Decoding UAPA sections
Evidence Presented: The case against SIMI 07
Table : Tribunal Timeline
Box: The life and death of Viqaruddin Ahmed
Box: A dental student
The Prosecutions Method
Box: The son of a preacher
Box: Police confessions: Lessons from the past
Box: The concocted cases against Imran Ansari
Subversion by Law: the functioning of tribunals 19
Box: Civil court with criminal procedures
Box: Hubli: Another SIMI case results in acquittal
The Politics of Banning 28
Box: Reasonable restrictions
1The language of the provisions of the Act is drafted in such a manner that theTribunal is required to see only the sufficiency of the cause for the CentralGovernment to declare the association to be unlawful and conversely, the onusis put on the association, either as a body of persons or as office-bearers or evenas members, to show cause as to why it should not be declared as unlawful.
Justice P K Shali; UAPA Tribunal 2012; para 45
PEOPLES UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS has long held that freedoms conferredby the Constitution as well as those which flow from International Covenant on Civiland Political Rights (ICCPR), are intrinsic to our pursuit of democratic rights. Thesefreedoms are not only meant for individuals but also, and most significantly, for ourright to form associations in order to promote and propagate collectively heldperspectives/views in the public domain. Of all the freedoms we enjoy, free speechmatters most, both to individuals as well as to associations. It is also a settled matter oflaw that any law or rule that curbs the freedoms conferred by Part III of our Constitutionmust be examined for its substantive as well procedural aspects to establish itsreasonableness.
In 2012, the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations published a report onthe Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [The Terror of Law: UAPA and the Myth of NationalSecurity] which traced the history of the Act and presented a substantive critique of itssections, particularly its extraordinary nature which confers sweeping powers to thepolice to arrest and detain political dissenters. This present report looks at the provisionof imposing a ban under the UAPA and the power and scope of the tribunal set upunder the Act to determine the efficacy of the governments ban order on unlawfulorganizations. This tribunal is headed by a sitting judge of the High Court making thereview a judicial one for a ban order on unlawful organisations. However, after the2004 amendment, the Act permits a ban on an organisation for being a terroristorganisation and provides merely a non-judicial review committee which aggrievedpersons can turn to. The focus of the present report is on the working of the judicialtribunal because the review committees proceedings, if any, are not available in publicdomain and there is no way of knowing whether any of the 33 organisations listed inthe Schedule to the Act have ever contested the ban. In contrast, the Tribunals ordersproduced each time a ban was challenged by the banned organization, are available inthe public domain. The report examines the workings of three Tribunals, 2010, 2012,2014, related to the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in order to determinewhether the Tribunal actually acts as a check on arbitrary actions of the Executive andas a safeguard for the aggrieved.
SIMI is the only organization that has challenged every order imposing a ban beforethe Tribunal starting from 2001. It has consistently deposed before the tribunal set upfor this purpose under section 4 of UAPA. This report documents the charges thathave been levelled against SIMI, analyses the functioning of tribunals, highlights thefatal flaw of the Act and argues for the repeal of the UAPA.
21. The Trials and Tribulations of Tribunals
ON 30 JULY 2014, a special tribunal headed byJustice Suresh Kait of the Delhi High Court bannedthe Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) fora period of five years. This was the seventhsuccessive ban since 2001 when SIMI was firstproscribed under the Unlawful ActivitiesPrevention Act (UAPA) by the then NDA ledCentral Government. Notably, unlike the previousorders which were for two years each, the 2014notification brought by the UPA Government wasfor five years, since it had amended the Act in 2012which extended the ban period on the grounds thatit would reduce the cost of administering theban. This amendment was made on therecommendation of the 2012 tribunal judge, JusticeV.K. Shali, who concluded his judgment by statingthat the entire functioning of the tribunal entailslot of time and expenditure of the constitutionalas well as public functionaries at different levels,in different States, for the purpose of recording ofevidence and deciding the validity of thenotification. The judge further claimed that sincea High Court judge heads the tribunal, the normaladjudicatory work assigned to the Judge is alsoimpacted, resulting in the delay of disposal ofnormal cases also. While the government readilyamended the law at the behest of the tribunaljudgment, it deliberately overlooked the fact thatnotified organizations have the right to challengethe governments ban notification (S.4(3)) and thatthe tribunal is expected to hold inquiries withinsix months to adjudicate the veracity of thegovernments claim (S.4(1)). The UAPA mandatesthe setting up of a tribunal headed by a High Courtjudge for the purpose of adjudicating the bannotification (S.5(1)) and, if, SIMI had chosen not tochallenge the ban, then the tribunal would windup its activities within a month after confirmingthe ban notification. Since other organisations havenot challenged the ban there was no costincurred. Neither was the matter discussed inParliament, not was the initial rationale for
maintaining a reasonably small duration evenmentioned.
Since 2001 when SIMI was first banned, anofficial history of its anti-national character createdby intelligence agencies and government officialshas been proffered before and accepted bysuccessive tribunals. According to this account,despite the ban, SIMI continues to be involved inspreading communal hatred, persists incommitting terror attacks and, remains steadfastin its ideological goal of establishing Islamic rulein India. Way back in 2002, the then NDA ledGovernment had argued that SIMI was associatedwith the Hizbul Mujahideen, Al-Ummah, TamilNadu Muslim Munnetra Kazagham and othersecessionist organizations; that it was involved inkilling of Hindus, especially those associated withthe RSS since 1993; that it launched a country widecampaign from 1996 to mobilize support for thecaliphate; and, that its pro-Pak attitude wasevident during the Kargil crisis. Further, it wasargued, through oral and written literature, thatSIMI activists eulogized pan-Islamic terroristleaders and deliberately distorted historical factsin order to stoke militant ideas in the minds ofimpressionable Muslim youth. Subsequently,successive prosecution agencies cited SIMIsinvolvement in a large number of blasts, serialbombings and terrorist attacks in different citiesand town across the country to ensure thecontinuance of the ban. In 2014, the groundsremained much the same as the organization wasstated to have links with Pakistan based terroristorganization such as the Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT) andIndian Mujahideen (IM), the latter is claimed tobe the brainchild of erstwhile SIMI members. Inkeeping with this account of SIMIs continuingsubversive and seditious history, the police claimedthat the low intensity Bijnor blast of 12 September2014 was a handiwork of five SIMI suspects whoescaped in a jailbreak from Khandwa in MadhyaPradesh in October 2013. In October 2014,
3Hyderabad police arrested two suspected SIMIactivists hailing from Maharashtra, Shoeb AhmadKhan and Shah Mudassir, on charges of hatchingterror conspiracies with cross border terroristsalong with three SIMI activists of Hyderabad.
Unlike the tribunals which have indictedSIMI for its anti-national and criminal characterbased on depositions made primarily by policeofficials, the decisions of criminal courts in thecases which reached the trial stage tell a differentstory. In a writ petition before the Supreme Court,two erstwhile SIMI members submitted that outof 111 cases included in the background noteprepared by the Centre before imposing ban ordersin 2012, in 97 of these cases either the courtsacquitted the accused or the government droppedthe charges. This trend of acquittal has onlycontinued in recent times. In April 2013, a localcourt in Kanpur acquitted seven persons who werearrested between the nights of 26 and 27 September2001 for allegedly giving hate speeches in theirlocality. They were acquitted of all charges as thecourt found no evidence against them. Further, inAugust 2014, four suspected SIMI members
accused in a robbery case in 2010 in Ratlam districtof Madhya Pradesh were acquitted. Likewise, on1st September 2014, a local court in Bhopalacquitted Mohammad Sajid, Mohammad Sadiq,Abu Faisal Khan and Mohammad Iqrar becausethe prosecution failed to prove that they wereinvolved in the robbery attempt, and it also didnot submit any documentary evidence to link themwith SIMI. Still more recently, in November 2014,a local court in Mumbai acquitted nine SIMIactivists due to lack of evidence. The accused werearrested in September 2001 from Mumbai after thepolice raided their office at Kurla and foundseditious literature and photographs of Osam