The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice to National Investigation Agency (NIA) on a plea moved by Naeem Ahmad Khan, a Kashmiri separatist leader, challenging the framing of charges against him in a terror funding case.
A division bench comprising justices Sidharth Mridul and Talwant Singh issued notice to the agency and listed the matter on August 3, 2023. Khan has challenged the trial court order passed on March 16, 2023. The court will also hear the bail matter of Khan on the next date of hearing.
He has challenged various charges framed against him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Indian Penal Code (IPC) in a case of alleged terror funding.
Khan was arrested in July 2017. He was remanded to judicial custody after interrogation. He is under judicial custody since August 14, 2017.
It is submitted in the appeal that the prosecution has completely failed to substantiate any allegations related to the Appellant’s alleged affiliation or even any remote connection with any banned or terrorist organisation, let alone any evidence to contend that the appellant was involved in the raising of the funds for a terrorist act.
It is the allegations of the agency that some letters recovered from Khan’s residence revealed that he was funding the terror activities out of the commission he earned for getting students admitted to medical College in Pakistan.
Earlier, Naeem Khan had challenged the order denying him bail.
On December 22, the Trial Court refused to grant bail to Naeem Khan and said, “Since the nature of the allegations and evidence collected during the investigation require leading of evidence to prove different facts, which would take a substantial amount of time. In such a situation, the delay in the trial, to my mind cannot be entertained by this court once a question of bail is governed by specific mandate under sections 43-D(S) of UA(P) Act.”.
Trial Court further stated “Right from the day when different charge sheets were filed in this case till date, there has been no delay in the trial. Rather a process/enquiry u/s 207 Cr.P.C., the question of consideration of plea of guilt of other accused as well as deciding the question of charge, have been expeditiously decided by Predecessor of this court only with the view to ensure fair and expeditious trial to other co-accused.”
“This court however would like to mention here that earnest efforts would be made for expeditious trial of the matter so that there should not be unnecessary delay in completing the trial and this court is very much conscious of a period of incarceration of different accused persons including applicant,” added the Trial Court.
Senior Counsel Siddharth Luthra appearing for NIA had submitted that since charges in this case have already been framed, the court has already concluded regarding the sufficiency of evidence against the accused for framing of charge under different offences of UA(P) Act and IPC.
Senior Advocate Luthra had also contended that such exercise of evaluating the evidence in detail scrutiny having been done now at the stage of bail as per the requirement of section 43-D(S) of UA(P) act, only the authenticity of accusation against the accused is to be seen which is far lighter than consideration at the stage of charge. Therefore accused is not entitled to bail on account of the bar of Section 43-D(S) of the UA(P) Act.
The bail petition moved stated that the accused had been incarcerated for six years suffering from various health issues like hyperuricemia and rheumatoid arthritis. Bail plea further stated that prosecution evidence is yet to start and there are around 400 prosecution witnesses and documents running into thousand pages, the prosecution is seeking to prove. As such trial is likely to take a very long period of time.
Earlier, the Court framed the charges against other Kashmiri separatist leaders who are accused in the case after Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karate, Shabbir Shah, Masarat Alam, Md Yusuf Shah, Aftab Ahmad Shah, Altaf Ahmad Shah, Nayeem Khan, Md Akbar Khanday, Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal, Bashir Ahmad Bhat, Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, Shabir Ahmad Shah, Abdul Rashid Sheikh and Naval Kishore Kapoor formally signed the court order copy and said they are ready to face trial in the case.
In March 2022, the NIA Court ordered the framing of charges against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin, Kashmiri separatist leaders including Yasin Malik, Shabbir Shah, Masarat Alam and others under various sections of UAPA in a case pertaining to the terrorist and secessionist activities that disturbed the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
The court had also ordered the framing of charges against Kashmiri politician and former MLA Rashid Engineer, Businessman Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, Bitta Karate, Aftab Ahmad Shah, Avatar Ahmad Shah, Naeem Khan, Bashir Ahmed Bhat, alias Peer Saifullah and several others under various sections of IPC and UAPA including criminal conspiracy, waging war against the country, unlawful activities, etc.