With a special court Wednesday dropping Section 20 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against him, alleged Islamic State recruit Areeb Majeed will not be charged with being member of a terrorist organisation. Majeed, a resident of Kalyan who had allegedly travelled to Iraq to join international terror outfit IS, was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in November 2014.
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In his order, Special Judge V V Patil said since IS was not declared a terrorist organisation in India prior to February 2015, Majeed could not be charged for being its member. Majeed will continue to face other charges under UAPA, including Section 16 (punishment for terrorist act) and Section 18 (punishment for conspiracy) read with Section 125 (waging war against any Asiatic Power in alliance with the Government of India) under the Indian Penal Code.
“The overall study of the statements of the witnesses, the scientific evidence, FIR, memorandum of TI (Test Identification) parade leads me to hold that there are grounds for presuming that the accused might have committed the alleged offence and that there are sufficient grounds for proceedings against him by framing charge,” the court said.
According to the NIA, Majeed, an engineering student, along with three others — Aman Tandel, Fahad Sheikh and Saheem Tanki — had boarded an Etihad Airways flight in May 2014 for Abu Dhabi and travelled to Baghdad and thereafter separated from the travel group to join the IS. The NIA had claimed that there was evidence to show that Majeed was a follower of IS and its ideology and that he was arrested in November from the Mumbai airport upon returning “with some ulterior motive”.
Majeed’s lawyer Mubin Solkar had contended that none of the charges against him could be applied. One of the arguments put forth by him was that for Majeed to be tried as a member of a terrorist organisation, the Government of India had to publish a notification in the gazette banning IS. The defence claimed that Majeed had already been chargesheeted for his alleged unlawful activities, even before the organisation was notified. The NIA had opposed this stating that IS was banned by the United Nations Security Council in 2014, which was binding on all member states, including India.
“ISIL was not declared a terrorist organisation prior to February 2015. So, charge against the accused for commission of an offence punishable under Section 20 of UAP Act cannot be framed,” the court observed.
Majeed had earlier claimed that his return to India from Turkey was arranged by high ranking officials in coordination with the NIA, and that he had not sneaked into India to carry out any terrorist activity, as claimed by the agency. Denying his claim, the NIA had sought his trial on charges including punishment for terrorist act.