Setting aside a special court order, the Bombay High Court Wednesday directed that summons be issued to nodal officers of five telecom companies for production of phone records of calls exchanged between the mobile numbers of NIA officers and the father of Areeb Majeed, who is facing trial for allegedly travelling to Syria to join the Islamic State in 2014.
In his defence, Majeed has claimed that while the NIA said he was arrested on November 29, 2014, and that he had returned to India to carry out a terror attack, his return, in fact, had been facilitated by the NIA itself. His plea seeking the call detail records (CDRs) of three NIA officers and a number used by his father, Ejaz, had been rejected in January by the special court conducting his trial.
In his appeal to the High Court, Majeed said he had sought the CDRs to demonstrate that the entire arrangement for his arrival had been made by the NIA and only then he came to be arrested.
The bench of Justices Indrajit Mahanty and A M Badar said: “When the accused has raised a defence that he was in fact brought back to India with all necessary help by the officers of the NIA in consultation with his father, and that, those officers were in contact with his father at the relevant time and were also present at the airport at the time of arrival of the accused, requirement of fair trial necessitates calling of CDRs of the officers of the NIA as well as those of another cell phone number of father of the accused.”
Objecting to the plea, the NIA said it has been made to delay the trial and that at this stage, Majeed is not entitled to the CDRs. The High Court said the CDRs should be provided to him only if officers are summoned as prosecution witnesses. The calls pertain to the period between November 20 and November 29, 2014.
According to the NIA, engineering student Majeed, along with three others – Aman Tandel, Fahad Shaikh and Faheem Tanki — boarded an Etihad Airways flight in May 2014 for Abu Dhabi and travelled to Baghdad for a religious pilgrimage and thereafter separated from the travel group to join the IS.
The NIA claimed Majeed was arrested on November 29, 2014 after his return, while Majeed claimed that his father had been in touch with NIA officers regarding his return and had even met them on November 23. He claimed that he returned on November 28 and was then interrogated by officers of the NIA and taken to a farmhouse. The special court had said that the mere presence of NIA officers at the airport would not sustain Majeed’s claim.
Arguing in person before the High Court, Majeed submitted that an emergency certificate and a one-way ticket for an Istanbul-Mumbai flight as well as hotel accommodation were provided by the Indian consulate in Istanbul.
“This official document, prima facie, justifies the contention of the accused made in the application for issuing of summons to the telecom companies for providing CDRs of cell phone of officers of the NIA and another cell of his father,” the High Court said.