In its order, the Tribunal upheld the Union of India’s notification declaring religious preacher Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation an “unlawful association” under the stringent anti-terrorism law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA. “Zakir Naik makes radical statements and speeches that are seen by crores of people around the world,” according to the Home Ministry.
In 2016, just as the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was about to launch an investigation into the religious preacher, the head of the Islamic Research Foundation fled to Malaysia.
In its order, the Tribunal stated that it agrees with Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s argument on behalf of the Central Government and that the evidence presented on the record has also proven that the respondent Association is engaging in unlawful activities.
“Based on the convincing and persuasive evidence on record, this Tribunal is of the opinion that there are sufficient reasons and causes for declaring the Islamic Research Foundation as an unlawful association, and accordingly, this Tribunal confirms the Notification dated 15 November 2021, issued by the Government of India for the imposition of a five-year ban on IRF with effect from the date of the aforesaid notification,” according to the Tribunal order.
In a notification dated March 30, 2022, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that the Tribunal, in exercising its powers, issued an order on March 9, 2022, confirming the declaration made in the notification.
The Islamic Research Foundation had previously stated that the Central Government’s action declaring the Foundation an unlawful association is unjustified and unjustified, as well as wholly arbitrary and illegal, and amounts to an abuse of the Act’s draconian provisions.
“There is not an iota of evidence to show that the Foundation has ever engaged in any unlawful activity in the past,” the Islamic Research Foundation stated in its response to the UAPA tribunal. The Foundation also has no unlawful activities or activities punishable under sections 153 (A) or 153 (B) of the Indian Penal Code as its objectives (IPC).
The Foundation is a registered charitable Public Trust with aims and objects that include charitable, educational, moral, and socio-economic development, as well as the establishment of schools, orphanages, research and educational institutions, hospitals, and other facilities, as well as providing scholarships and educational support to deserving students.
Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India, appeared for the Government of India, along with Sachin Datta, Senior Advocate, Amit Mahajan, Capital Goods Skill Council (CGSC), and Advocates Rajat Nair, Jay Prakash Singh, Kanu Aggarwal, Dhruv Pande, Himanshu Goel, and Shantanu Sharma.
The State of Maharashtra was represented by lawyers Rahul Chitnis and Aaditya Pande. For the Islamic Research Foundation, lawyers S.Hari Haran, Shakul R. Ghatole, Bhavana Duhoon, and Jaikriti S. Jadeja appeared.
The Tribunal had previously sought Zakir Naik’s and the Islamic Research Foundation’s responses to the Centre’s decision to declare Zakir Naik’s organisation, the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), a “unlawful association” under the UAPA.
Under the UAPA, the Home Ministry established a tribunal headed by Delhi High Court Chief Justice DN Patel to adjudicate on the ban on the Islamic Research Foundation. The ban on Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), an NGO led by Islamic evangelist and India-born preacher Zakir Naik, was extended by the Home Ministry for another five years.
The ministry stated in its notification that if the “unlawful association’s” activities were not curtailed, it would continue its subversive activities and reorganise its missing activists. According to the ministry’s notification, Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s speeches and statements were intended to inspire youths of a particular religion to commit terrorist acts in India and abroad.
The Home Ministry said in extending the ban on the Islamic Research Foundation that Zakir Naik’s statements and speeches are objectionable, subversive, and promote enmity and hatred among religious groups. “Zakir Naik makes radical statements and speeches that are viewed by crores of people worldwide,” according to the ministry.
“These statements by Zakir Naik can also disrupt the secular fabric of the country by polluting people’s minds by creating communal disharmony, propagating anti-national sentiments, escalating secessionism by supporting militancy, and some people may engage in activities that are prejudicial to the country’s secular fabric,” the ministry said.