Citing confidentiality issues, the Centre asked a tribunal, set up under UAPA, to hold in- camera proceedings to scrutinise whether the government was justified in immediately banning controversial Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF).
The submission was made before the Delhi High Court’s Justice Sangita Dhingra Seghal who is presiding over the tribunal set up under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
The tribunal observed that usually in such matters “proceedings are generally held in-camera and there should be no objection to it” and said it will pass an order on the next date of hearing on February 20.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain, appearing for the Centre, said that on the next date, the tribunal can also lay down the procedure to be followed during the hearings and where and when these will be held.
He also placed before the tribunal three affidavits on behalf of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) containing documents in a sealed cover regarding the material relied upon and the investigation carried out by the agency based on which the government decided to impose immediate ban on IRF.
Meanwhile, the state of Maharashtra, which is supporting the Centre’s decision, said it will also file an affidavit in 10 days time.
The tribunal, thereafter, asked the Centre to furnish all the documents to the lawyers representing IRF, saying, “They are also entitled to the records.”
IRF had earlier moved the tribunal against the November 17, 2016 notification of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) imposing immediate ban on it.
However, since the tribunal declined to hear the matter before February 6, the foundation had moved the Delhi High Court challenging the immediate ban.
Defending its decision before the high court, the Centre had said that the organisation was banned as there was an apprehension that youths could be “radicalised” to join terror groups.
IRF had opposed the contentions, saying no reasons were given for the ban.
The Centre had countered the argument by saying that the urgent step was taken under the apprehension that Indian youths could be “motivated” by the alleged statements and speeches made by IRF and its members, including its President Naik, to join terror groups like ISIS, which is a cause of global concern.
It had also said that Mumbai Police had lodged an FIR against six others of IRF on a complaint by the father of a Kerala-based youth who joined ISIS.