A Delhi court has granted extension of time for 60 days for police to complete its investigation against former Congress municipal councillor Ishrat Jahan and activist Khalid Saifi, booked under the stringent anti-terror law -- Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act -- in a case related to communal violence in north east Delhi in February.
The court extended the time for probe in the case after it was told that Khalid had allegedly travelled outside India and met persons, including fugitive Zakir Naik, controversial Islamic preacher, in order to get funds for spreading his agenda and the investigation regarding this required more time.
The prosecutor alleged that Ishrat Jahan has got illegal funds through an unaccounted channel and Khalid Saifi got funds from Popular Front of India (PFI) as well as from outside India.
Khalid Saifi was a member of United Against Hate, a citizens' campaign launched in 2017 to protest against series of lynching in the country and was allegedly involved in the violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in which financial support was provided by the the PFI, formed in 2006 in Kerala as a successor to the National Democratic Front (NDF).
The prosecutor added that "investigation of funds with respect to the sources of funds is underway" Accused Khalid travelled outside India and met persons, including fugitive Zakir Naik in order to get support/funds for spreading his agenda.
He further submitted that Jahan got funds from a suspicious route through her relative residing in Ghaziabad and other connected persons are residing in Maharashtra and were unable to move due to COVID-19 lockdown.
Examination of these connected persons was very crucial in order to investigate illegal funding, Additional Public Prosecutor Irfan Ahmed, Ahmed submitted beefore Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana.
The judge, in his June 15 order, said the prosecution has set out a case for extension of the statutory time period to conclude the investigation but the investigating officer was not divested of his obligation of concluding the probe expeditiously.
The court, which granted time till August 14 to conclude the pending investigation, noted the police contention that "Khalid got suspicious funds through a NRI account of a person, who is serving in Singapore, in the account of an NGO which he is running in partnership with his friend".
The examination of NGO partner of Khalid could not be completed as in the midway of examination, he has been quarantined by the local authority in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh as COVID-19 suspect. Apart from this, investigation with respect to the fund raiser, who is in Singapore is under way.
"Searches of other co-accused persons in the case were going on and some of them were presently out of Delhi and due to the lockdown COVID-19 period, the process of searches was not so easy and there were some other unavoidable difficulties to apprehend them," he said.
The police had sought extension of time till September 17 for concluding investigation against Jahan and Khalid, under section 43D (2) (b) of the anti-terror law.
Section 43-D (2) of UAPA provides that if it is not possible to complete the investigation within the 90 days period, then upon the report of the public prosecutor indicating the progress of the probe and the specific reasons for the detention of the accused beyond the 90 days period, after satisfaction, the court can extend the period of probe to 180 days.
Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider, Jamia students Asif Iqbal Tanha, Gulfisha Khatoon, Jamia Alumni Association President Shifa-Ur-Rehman, JNU students and Pinjra Tod members Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, suspended AAP councilor Tahir Hussain, Shadab Ahmed, and Umar Khalid have also been booked under UAPA in the case. Khalid has not been arrested yet.
The prosecutor claimed in the application seeking extension of time, that evidence of illegal funding to organize an unlawful assembly in the name of anti-CAA protest by both the accused has also surfaced.
Ahmed said that the case involved a deep rooted, large-scale and multi layered conspiracy and the key conspirators were yet to be arrested and the source of funds was required to be investigated. Due to some technical fault, the relevant date from the mobile phone of Khalid could not be recovered, he said.
He further said that due to the pandemic COVID-19, the expert technician was not available, and efforts would now be made to get it opened through authorised service station/ techincal expert for retrieving the data and bringing the pending investigation to a conclusive end.
Advocate Bhavook Chauhan, appearing for Khalid, opposed the application saying it was legally not maintainable.
Chauhan further claimed the investigating officer was acting very casually and mechanically and extension of time viewed against such casual approach would lead to unjustified infringement of fundamental right of the accused, he claimed.
Advocate Lalit Valecha, appearing for Jahan, argued that she has been fully cooperating with the investigating agency and already revealed the questioned source of funds to the IO.