The Centre’s ban on preacher Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) was well within the constitutional provision, which reasonably restricts the freedom of speech and to form associations, the Delhi High Court said on Thursday. “The immediate action appears to have been taken in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India…” said Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva. He added that confidential evidence submitted in support of the ban disclosed evidence against IRF. Naik is accused of radicalising some youths, who allegedly joined ISIS, extolling virtues of terrorists like Osama bin Laden and justifying suicide bombings. He is alleged to have posted objectionable comments against Hindu gods.
Naik had reportedly claimed that 80 per cent Hindus could have been converted to Islam, if required, by the force of sword. He is alleged to have asked “every Muslim to be a terrorist”.
The Union Home Ministry had banned the IRF in November under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. It accused Naik of making “fundamentalist statements” and promoting enmity on the basis of religion while banning IRF. The ministry claimed that his speeches inspired ISIS terrorists and sympathisers in addition to being “prejudicial to maintenance of harmony between religious groups’’. It had said that if urgent steps were not taken, then there was every possibility of many youth being radicalised to commit terrorist acts.
IRF’s lawyer, Dinesh Mathur, highlighted “incorrect facts” and “stale material” in the court while arguing against the ban. “There was nothing to show the culpability of the association’s members and president,’’ he said.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain said the notification banning IRF was without any constitutional or legal infirmity.
Justice Sachdeva said that the notification was in consonance with the established legal principles. “The contention… that the notification is based on incorrect facts, in my view, is unsubstantiated,” the judge said.
The court said that the IRF’s alleged activities came within the purview of the Unlawful Association Act. It quashed IRFs submissions while dismissing its plea. The court added that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal, before which an appeal against the ban is pending, could carry its proceedings.