The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice on a plea by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) challenging the acquittal of five men accused of organising a meeting of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in Kerala’s Panayikkulam in August 2006.
A bench headed by the Chief Justice of India issued the notice on the petition challenging the HC verdict of April 12 this year. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the NIA.
There were 17 accused in the case, one of them a minor. In November 2015, the NIA court in Kochi convicted five of them —- P A Shaduly, Abdul Razik, Ansar Nadvi, Nizamuddin and Shammas —- and sentenced them to varying degrees of imprisonment. The court acquitted the rest. The case against the minor was separated from the rest.
According to the prosecution, the 17 accused assembled in an auditorium at Panayikulam on August 15, 2006. The secret meeting was arranged by accused 1 to 5 and attended by the others.
The accused, claimed the probe agency, brought pamphlets containing anti-national, seditious and inflammatory writings with intent to bring hatred and contempt against the Government of India. Two of the accused “addressed the audience and advocated for cession of Kashmir through Jihad and for bringing back Muslim rule in India”. The books and pamphlets brought by accused 1 to 5 were publications of SIMI, the prosecution alleged, adding that the meeting “was convened by the accused with intent to cause disaffection towards Government of India, to conduct Jihad for cession of Kashmir from India and to bring back Muslim rule in India”. They were charged with sedition under Section 124A and other offences under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Acquitting them, the HC disagreed with the agency’s charge that their speech amounted to sedition.
After citing case laws on the matter and discussing the charges, the HC ruled that “taking into consideration all these facts and principles evolved in appreciating a case under Section 124A, we do not think that the statements aforesaid even if read as a whole was intended to create any hatred or contempt or disaffection towards the Government of India. Nothing has been stated against the Government of India. Of course, it is stated that certain laws like TADA and NSA are oppressive and Muslims are tortured. It is also stated that the persons who are doing Jihad in Kashmir are gunned down by Indian military and all persons have to fight against the same. It might be true that it may trench upon making a malicious speech. But in so far as the speech does not create any hatred or contempt to Government of India, nor does it excite any disaffection, the provisions u/s 124A cannot be invoked.”
The prosecuting agency had relied on the testimony of the Imam of Panayikulam Salafi Masjid to press its charges. The Imam, who became an approver, had allegedly attended the meeting at the invitation of one of the accused.