IRF opposes Centre plea for in-camera proceedings in tribunal

IRF opposes Centre plea for in-camera proceedings in tribunal

Islamic preacher Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) today opposed the government's plea for holding in-camera proceedings in the tribunal which is scrutinising whether the immediate ban on IRF was justified.

IRF contended before Delhi High Court's Justice Sangita Dhingra Seghal, who is presiding over the tribunal set up under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), that the government's plea for in-camera proceedings was a "garb" to deny them the material relied upon to ban the organisation.

The lawyer for IRF also said the material relied upon for imposing the immediate ban on it had to be disclosed in the notification and added that none of the material has been provided to them as yet.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain pressed for in-camera hearing claiming the "subject matter was sensitive" and there was a possibility that it could be disclosed during the proceedings before the tribunal.

He said he would claim confidentiality with regard to certain documents during proceedings before the tribunal and added that when chargesheet has not been filed, the material regarding ongoing probe into IRF cannot be provided to it. "The material given to the tribunal regarding ongoing probe cannot be disclosed to him," the ASG said.

After hearing arguments of both sides, the tribunal said it would pass order on the government's application for in- camera hearing on February 23. It also fixed March 17, 18 and 20 for recording of evidence in the matter.

The government had on February 6 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 an immediate ban on IRF.

IRF had earlier moved the tribunal against the November 17, 2016 notification of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) imposing the ban on it. However, since the tribunal declined to hear the matter before February 6, the foundation had moved the High Court challenging the immediate ban.

Defending its decision before the high court, the government had claimed that the organisation was banned as there was an apprehension that youths could be "radicalised" to join terror groups. IRF had opposed the contention, saying no reasons were given for the ban.

The Centre had also said that Mumbai Police had lodged an FIR against six other members of IRF on a complaint by the father of a Kerala-based youth who had joined ISIS.

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