The Bombay High Court, in a recent order, rejected the bail application of a 32-year-old scrap dealer, accused of conspiracy involving the Islamic State (IS), a banned terror organisation. The high court observed that images of firearms found on his mobile phone formed part of incriminating evidence against him.
The accused, Allah Rakha Mansoori, is a scrap dealer of cars and motorcycles. He was arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in 2018 for allegedly carrying weapons from Surat to Mumbai and providing them to a co-accused.
According to the police, Mansoori was also roped in by another accused on the run to provide a vehicle for terror activities.
The case was subsequently transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which stated in its chargesheet that there were images of motorcycles, two images of firearms and one image of a person carrying an IS flag on Mansoori’s mobile phone.
Mansoori, in his bail plea before the HC, stated that such images are regularly circulated on messaging applications and search engines, and can be automatically saved on any device without explicit permission of the receiver. He added that there is no proof that he has posted or circulated such images with the intention to instigate or commit any illegal act or to join the IS.
The HC, however, stated that this is incriminating evidence along with other material as claimed to be found by the NIA.
The NIA has also stated that photos of restricted areas of Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation were also present on Mansoori’s phone, but were deleted after they were sent to unknown persons. The NIA further stated that Mansoori took these photos as part of his business as a scrap dealer.
“It appears from the statements of officials (of the corporation) that it is a restricted area. Admittedly, the appellant (Mansoori) is a scrap dealer and therefore his contention that the photographs of the restricted area were taken for business purposes cannot be accepted,” stated the division bench of Justice N R Borkar and Justice B P Dharmadhikari.
The bench also held that the defence that his name was not included in the FIR at the beginning, is not sufficient to grant bail. The court also took into account other evidence, including a WhatsApp conversation between Mansoori and an accused on the run, with the NIA stating that both were conversing in code about passport, money and pistol.
Mansoori had also stated that among the evidence against him was that he had looked at areas around Pakistan on Google maps. He added that this was “taken out of context” as there were other areas he had looked at as well, including Toronto and Ajmer, which were “absolutely normal behavioural patterns of any average consumer of the internet”.
The HC, however, stated that considering all the material on record against him, it cannot be said the case against him is “inherently improbable”.
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