A special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Wednesday said that alleged Islamic State (IS, or ISIS) recruit Areeb Majeed could not be charged with being a member of a terrorist organisation. The court dropped the charge under Section 20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on a technicality, saying that when Majeed allegedly joined ISIS, the organisation had not yet been declared a terrorist organisation under Indian Law.
Majeed and other three young men from Kalyan left the country allegedly to join IS in May 2014 on the pretext of going on a pilgrimage. In November 2014, Majeed was arrested on his returned to India. He is the only alleged ISIS recruit from India who is known to have returned to the country.
Special judge V V Patil said on Wednesday, “ISIS was not declared a terrorist organization prior to February 16, 2015. So charges against the accused for commission of an offence punishable under Section 20 of UAPA cannot be framed.”
However, the court upheld other charges against Majeed, including those under sections 16 (committing a terrorist act) and 18 (conspiracy) of the UAPA, and Section 125 of the Indian Penal Code (waging war against any Asiatic power with which the Government of India has an alliance).
Mobin Solkar, Majeed’s lawyer, contended that the notification to declare ISIS a terrorist organisation was published on February 16, 2015, after the charge sheet was filed against Areeb.
Though the prosecution contested this, the court said, “The NIA proposed to frame the charges against the accused for commission of an offence punishable under Section 20 of UAPA. I have gone through the ingredients of Section 20 of UAPA. Indisputably, ISIS is a terrorist organisation and was not declared a terrorist organisation prior to February 16, 2015.” The court also rejected Majeed’s discharge plea, holding that there was sufficient evidence against him to frame charges and begin the trial.