UPDATED: February 5, 2021 10:23 IST
Hearing a plea against the bail granted to the lone Islamic State accused facing trial in India, the Bombay High Court asked NIA how long will the case take as the accused argued for himself and said he returned to India on his own and has been lodged in prison for six years while the minimum punishment for his offense is five years.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) against the trial court order that granted bail to the lone ISIS accused facing trial in India.
The trial court, which granted bail to accused Areeb Majeed in March 2020, stayed its own order for the agency to appeal in the high court. In the high court, Majeed never hired a lawyer so the court asked him if he was going to need any legal assistance. Majeed has been behind the bars for the past six years and has been arguing his own court in the lower court too. So, he expressly denied the need for it now.
Majeed told the high court his trial has been moving at a snail’s pace. Majeed said, “The NIA keeps saying that the witnesses are not coming. I have admitted many documents to expedite the trial but even then, they are examining witnesses concerning those documents. How can they promise to expedite the trial?”
The additional solicitor general replied, “The pandemic has delayed many trials. Trials have only started now. We will try to complete it as early as possible. From our side, there will be cooperation and we will finish the trial at the earliest.”
Majeed argued on the merits of the case as well, citing how the case of the prosecution was extremely weak. He also told the court that the quantum of punishment that he can be handed if he is found guilty after the trial is a minimum of 5 years to a life sentence. “I have already spent six years,” said Majeed.
During the hearing, the bench also wondered, “Why would a 21-year-old go to Iraq for people who he has never met in his life by leaving his family behind? Don’t you have enough suffering around you? You may be immature like you said.” To this Majeed replied, “I have also suffered in the past six years (incarcerated). I have been kept away from the people I returned for.”
Majeed also pointed out how he himself had made contact to be brought back from Syria. “From Syria to Turkey and then to Istanbul, I met officials at the Indian consulate who facilitated my stay and travel here. On November 28, 2014, I was arrested at the airport in Mumbai. They are saying that I was illegally trying to enter India as they do not want to admit their own role in my return,” said Majeed.
The court sat till 8 pm to hear the case. Majeed said, “I will not shy away from what wrong I have done but I will not admit the allegation that they are making against me.”
NIA has been saying that Majeed has returned with ulterior motives. Replying to that, Majeed quoted the ASG and said, “Let us not assume as to what might happen in future. If anything goes wrong the aggrieved party can come to the court.”
This argument was put forth by ASG Singh himself while he was opposing the bail application of Elgar Parishad accused Varavara Rao this week. Majeed was in the court while Singh’s arguments were going on.
Majeed assured that he “will attend NIA office and if I don’t go then warrants can be issued. What more does one want?” Justice Pitale asked the 27-year-old accused as to what he was planning to do. Majeed replied, “I am going to study for the law.”
Justice Pitale replied, “If you had utilized your time while you were 21 it would have been a matter of joy for family and your country.” Majeed’s family was sitting in court during this court exchange when he said, “That is what I regret. It is not that I don’t regret my lord.”
Majeed introduced his father and said, “My father has his own Unani medicine clinic in Kalyan.” His father informed the court and that his two daughters have just finished studying medicine too.
The court watched a video put forth by NIA to show the “purpose” for which Majeed had gone to Syria. The court after hearing both sides has reserved the judgment till February 23.