The Bombay High Court on Friday issued a notice to religious preacher Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation following a petition filed by the Enforcement Directorate over proceedings related to attachment of properties belonging to him and his organisation.
The ED, through its counsel advocate Hiten Venegaonkar, has filed a plea in the high court, challenging among other things, a last year’s order of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) Appellate Tribunal in New Delhi.
In its order, the Tribunal had stayed all attachment proceedings initiated by the ED against Naik and IRF until the central agency filed its reply, and submitted a copy of the NIA’s charge sheet filed against Naik in a case under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and also a copy of such speeches made by him that the probe agencies had alleged were “objectionable.”
Venegaonkar, however, argued before a bench of Justices Indrajit Mahanty and Sarang Kotwal that in asking for such documents, the Tribunal was “exceeding its jurisdiction” since the proceedings before it were related merely to the provisional attachment of properties under the PMLA, and not to the detailed probe in the case being carried out by the NIA under the UAPA.
Venegaonkar told the bench that the next hearing before the Tribunal was in June-July this year and that the ED would file its reply before the hearing.
However, the Tribunal must not insist upon the above documents, he told court.
While the bench noted that the charge sheet was a public document and no orders were required on submission of the same, it directed the Tribunal to continue with the attachment proceedings without insisting on the copy of the ‘objectionable’ speeches.
Naik has challenged before the Tribunal the attachment of his personal assets and some properties belonging to the IRF by the ED.
Naik, who fled India in 2016, is being probed by the National Investigation Agency on several charges under the Indian Penal Code and the UAPA. The NIA has accused Naik of inciting and radicalising youth through his speeches to take up terror activities.
The IRF, his Mumbai-based NGO, has been declared an unlawful association by the Union Home Ministry.
Following the NIA’s probe, the ED registered a case against Naik under the PMLA.