A tribunal on Tuesday lifted the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), accused of involvement in terrorist activities across the country.
The order comes at a time when the organisation’s role in the Bangalore and Ahmedabad blasts is being probed by security agencies.
Formed at Aligarh in April 1977 by a Journalism professor, SIMI was declared unlawful in 2001 by the Union Home Ministry, for "indulging in activities prejudicial to the security of the country”. The ban was extended every year.
Since 2006, 53 fresh criminal cases have been lodged by the police against members of the organisation for "disruptive activities".
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal headed by Justice Gita Mittal of the Delhi High Court quashed the February 2008 notification of the Ministry on the ground that the government failed to produce sufficient evidence to justify the extension of the ban.
The government could only produce evidence from the Malegaon blast in Maharashtra (it killed 37 people in 2006).
The home ministry will consider its options.
“Necessary remedial action will be taken on priority,” a Home Ministry spokesman said.
That may imply an appeal against the tribunal’s decision in the High Court.
Only last week the tribunal had asked the centre to produce “fresh evidence” to link SIMI to "bomb blasts, riots and destructive activities" to sustain the latest ban imposed in February this year.
The tribunal was hearing an appeal filed by SIMI challenging the ban. The court has forwarded the order to the Home Ministry in a sealed envelope.
Tuesday’s decision will not make a difference to the existing cases against SIMI activists, who face charges ranging from sedition to organised crime. “But this would mean that SIMI activists would have the right to come out in the open, as any other political party and mobilise people,” said Ajai Sahni, executive director at the Institute for Conflict Management.
Blaming the “incompetence” of the UPA government for the revocation of the ban, BJP Vice President Mukhtar Naqvi said: “UPA has been incompetent in defending the ban on SIMI. This reflects the real face of the government and its soft attitude towards terrorism.”
Justice Mittal had on July 28 asked the Centre why specific reasons or activities were not set out in the latest notification.