The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed a Bombay High Court order granting bail to Nanded native Mohammad Irfan Gaus, a suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative facing trial on charges of instigating young Muslims to take to violence and conspiring to commit a terror attack.
However, Gaus and his lawyers claimed to be in the dark about the National Investigation Agency (NIA)’s decision to challenge the HC order and said they were not issued any notices by the court. He is expected to surrender on Tuesday and subsequently move the SC, said lawyer Shahid Nadeem of the Jamiat Ulama-E-Maharashtra, which provided legal aid to Gaus.
Gaus (32) has been out on bail since July after a bench of Justices Indrajit Mahanty and A M Badar observed that the evidence placed before them by the NIA did not show “reasonable grounds for believing that accusations against the appellant/accused no.4 (Gaus) are true”.
In August 2012, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad had arrested Gaus and fellow Nanded natives Mohammed Muzammil Abdul Gani, Mohammed Sadique Mohammed Farooque, Mohammed Akram Mohammed Akbar and Mohammed Iliyas Mohammed Akbar on charges that one of them had received money from Saudi Arabia through Western Union Money Transfer and that the accused were also in possession of a revolver and live cartridges. The men are also accused of influencing young Muslims to take to violence and to conduct recces in Nanded and Hyderabad with the intention of carrying out terror strikes.
In 2017, the men had sought to plead guilty, citing the difficulties their families were facing without them. However, the trial court had rejected their pleas.
The probe was transferred to the NIA in 2013. A special court in Mumbai has so far examined 72 witnesses. In SC, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had argued that since the trial was nearing completion, securing Gaus’ presence at the time of the judgment being pronounced may prove difficult. Mehta also claimed that Gaus’ freedom “might affect the security of the nation” and that there was the possibility of the offence recurring.
Staying the HC’s order, a bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna also give the NIA liberty to re-arrest Gaus. The court has posted the matter after three weeks.
Gaus, who will attend the NIA court in Mumbai on Wednesday, said that the agency never informed him that it had opposed his bail at the apex court. “I meet NIA officials each time I attend court, but no one told me anything. This is against law. I did not get a chance to argue against the NIA’s submissions,” he said.
Gaus added that the HC would not have granted him bail in the first place had any witness deposed about his involvement in the alleged offence.
Lawyer Nadeem also denied having received any notice from the court regarding the NIA’s petition.
“We are surprised at the manner in which the Supreme Court has cancelled the bail. Gaus will now have to surrender in court on Tuesday to show that he is following the SC’s order and has no intention of running away. We will then mention our petition in the Supreme Court on Wednesday and point out that we were not served any notice,” he said.
Gaus, who used to work at an inverter battery shop in Nanded until his arrest, now runs a provisions store at his home. “Since he has to travel to Mumbai frequently to attend the trial, it is not possible for him to find full-time work. Whenever he needs to travel to Mumbai, he shuts the shop,” said his uncle, Mohammad Mohiuddin.
(With inputs from PTI)