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Delhi HC requests NIA answer to UAPA suspect's appeal of decision refusing him bail

Delhi HC requests NIA answer to UAPA suspects appeal of decision refusing him bail

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday requested the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to respond to a complaint that a trial court had denied a man's request for bail after he had been detained for more than nine years under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act due to a delay in the trial.

When giving notice to the NIA, a division bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna made it clear that "the notice issued in the present petition will not come in the way of framing of charge before the trial court." The case is set for listing in March.

Manzer Imam, who was detained by the NIA in 2013 in connection with suspected operators of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), has appealed the trial court's decision to refuse him bail. Imam was charged with violating several UAPA laws as well as Indian Penal Code sections 121A (conspiracy to wage war/attempt to wage war against the Government of India) and 123 (concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war), Indian Express reported.

The trial court rejected Imam's bail request on November 28, 2022, citing the trial's delay as the justification. The trial court ruled that “delay in the trial ipso facto cannot be a reason in the present case to grant bail” as there was also sufficient material to conclude that the accusation against Imam was not false.

Imam's attorney Kartik Murukutla stated on Friday that charges have not yet been framed despite the fact that his client has been imprisoned for nine years. In his submission, he claimed that the trial court had heard "repeated arguments" on the framing of the charges. “My concern is that there are 369 witnesses. The case is about a terrorist organisation called the Indian Mujahideen (IM). I first approached this court to grant me bail, the HC sent me back to the special court. There is no material at all connecting me to IM. There is just some material which has me in certain meetings where I’m not the organiser or making any speeches,” he said. Apart from the delay, Imam has also sought bail on the merits of his case.

The NIA attorney claimed that the trial court was regularly reviewing the case on charge. The NIA claimed that the repeated petitions highlight the trial's delay, which was described as "purely circumstantial" and "nobody's fault." The NIA asserted that the majority of the 14 defendants have had their charges formally argued. 33 people have been accused in all, 14 of them have been detained and are currently on trial, according to information provided to the high court.

Imam's lawyer claimed that his client had been in custody since October 1, 2013, and had spent more than "nine years in incarceration," asking that a time frame be indicated for resolving the bail application. The high court agreed, ordering the trial court to decide Imam's bail plea within 75 days. According to the NIA, the Imam has the option to take this matter before a special court, but he hasn't done so.

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