The Delhi High Court today upheld the Centre's decision to immediately ban Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), saying the organisation and its president and members were indulging in "unlawful activity".
Turning down the foundation's claim that the Centre has not given reasons for its order, Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said that there is material to establish that the "immediate action appears to have been taken in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India and public order".
"The activities which the petitioner organisation and its president and members are alleged to have indulged in, would clearly come within the purview of unlawful activity and since petitioner organisation and its members are alleged to have been indulging in the said activities it would come within the definition of unlawful association," the court said.
Producing the contents of the order by which the ban was imposed on the IRF, the court noted that as per the notification the foundation, its members and particularly founder -- Naik -- was encouraging and aiding its followers to promote the feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities and groups.
"Thus, it cannot be held that the notification insofar as it relates to, the exercise of power under proviso to section 3(3) of the Act and the declaration of petitioner association to be an unlawful association with immediate effect, is an arbitrary and unreasonable exercise of power.
"Not only is the material available on the record of the Central Government but the reasons for exercise of the said power have been disclosed in the notification," it said.
The IRF had moved the court challenging the November 17, 2016 notification of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) which had imposed an immediate ban on Naik's organisation under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
Holding that Naik's foundation's plea against the Centre's decision has "no merit", the court said the decision of the government was "not arbitrary and illegal".
Justice Sachdeva also agreed with the Centre's contention
that the order was made after "application of mind" as there was apprehension that youths could be "radicalised" to join terror groups.
"The record that was made available by the central government clearly shows that there is material in possession of the central government, which necessitated the declaration of the petitioner organisation as an unlawful association with immediate effect...
"The notification records that the necessity for exercise of powers under the proviso to section 3(3) of declaring the organisation as an unlawful association with immediate effect, is that if urgent steps were not taken many more youths could be motivated and radicalised to commit terrorist acts leading to promoting enmity between different religious groups," it noted in its 17-page judgement.
The notification was issued by the MHA in exercise of the powers under section 3(1) and 3(3) of the UAPA, declaring the organisation as an unlawful association.
The Centre had also produced before the court the files and materials available with the government on the basis of which the decision was made.
Taking note of which, it said that the record "discloses material for exercise of such power.
"The action of the Central Government would be covered under the exception of Article 19 (4) of the Constitution of India. The immediate action appears to have been taken in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India and public order," the judge said.
The court, meanwhile, made clear that the tribunal, set up under the UAPA, shall not get influence by the findings of this judgement and decide the issue pending before them on merit.
The court has agreed with the Centre's claim that Naik, by his speeches and statements, is stated to have been promoting enmity and hatred between different religious groups and inspiring Muslim youths and terrorists in India and abroad to commit terrorist acts.