Bombay High Court has upheld the decision of a special NIA court granting bail to Kalyan-based Areeb Majeed who was accused of having links with ISIS. Majeed spent over six years in jail in Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai.
The court dismissed the plea filed by the National Investigation Agency who had sought directions to set aside the special NIA court order of March 17, 2020. The bail order was stayed after NIA approached the High court to set aside the lower court’s order.
Majeed will be released on bail under certain stringent conditions. He has to furnish a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and sureties. He is not allowed to leave Kalyan and also he cannot change his place of residence. Majeed has to report twice a day for two months and once a day for another two months to the nearest police station.
A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale rejected the special court findings on the merits of the case in favour of the accused. While dismissing the plea filed by NIA through Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, the court cited Majeed’s prolonged incarceration of six years and slow pace of trial as the ground to uphold his bail. “This is a question of liberty and that the detention of the accused for this long worked in his favour,” the court stated.
“The process of examining 51 witnesses has taken more than five years and admittedly there are 107 more witnesses to be examined by the prosecution. Therefore, there is no likelihood of the trial being completed within the next six months,” the HC bench said.
The court noted that it is strange that the NIA Court had held that “at this stage” the prosecution had not succeeded to prove prima facie case on the basis of examination of 49 witnesses and that the prosecution had failed to give a specific direction.
“We are of the opinion that considering evidence of 49 witnesses already examined, when 107 witnesses remained to be examined, was an irrelevant consideration taken into account by the NIA Court while holding in favour of the respondent (Majeed) by the impugned judgment and order,” the court said.
NIA argued that Majeed may tamper with the witnesses if he’ll be granted bail.
To which, the bench replied, We have observed that the respondent is an educated person, who was completing his graduation in Civil Engineering when he left for Iraq at the age of 21 years. He categorically stated before us that as a 21-years-old, he was carried away and that he had committed a serious mistake, for which he had already spent more than six years behind bars.”
The court further added, “In the past more than six years of his incarceration, the respondent has argued his case on his own before the NIA Court. He represented his own case before this Court as well as the NIA Court and we could find that he was presenting his case by maintaining decorum and in a proper manner.”
The court had reserved its order on February 2 and announced the verdict today after almost three hours of the hearing. The court stressed on the significance of the right of an accused to a speedy trial under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
“If ultimately, the accused are found to be not guilty, the number of years, months and days spent by such accused as undertrials in jail, can never be given back to them and this is certainly a violation of their valuable right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the court said.
Majeed is booked under Section 125 (waging a war against any asiatic power in alliance with the government of India) of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 16 (punishment for terrorist act) and Section 18 (punishment for conspiracy) of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.