Need to probe if accused have ties with ISIS, NIA tells court

The NIA, probing the murder case of Ramalingam, who opposed the alleged bid to convert people to Islam, has submitted in a court here there was a need to probe if the accused were involved with terror outfits like ISIS.

Seeking extension of detention for 10 of the 16 accused men upto 180 days under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, the National Investigation Agency submitted in a Special Court for NIA Cases that the nature of assault against him and injury sustained warranted a further probe.

The murder happened in a 'Jihadi' way by severing his hand and hence there may be a possibility of the accused being trained in some terror outfit, the probe agency contended.

While 10 accused men are in judicial custody, six others are absconding.

The NIA in its plea said: "The way of injury is similar to the attack of Jihad activities as found in similar cases which were reported in several states.

Therefore investigation needs to be probed further whether these assailants have any involvement with ISIS or any other terror organisation."

Therefore the probe needs to be continued beyond 90 days, warranting further judicial custody of the accused -upto 180 days-, the prosecution contended.

The statement of witnesses, as well as the confession of the accused revealed that they were promoting 'Jihadi' activities, which has to be probed further.

Ramalingam, a Pattali Makkal Katchi functionary and resident of temple town of Thiruvidaimarudhur in Thanjavur district, was allegedly killed on February 5, 2019 for opposing a bid to preach and convert people to Islam in Paku Vinayagam Thopu village.

The accused used sickles and tried to chop off his hands, grievously injuring him in the process.

Ramalingam was pronounced dead at a government hospital.

Mohammed Asarudeen, Mohammed Riyas, Nijam Ali, Sarbudeen, Mohammed Rishwan are among accused men.

Accused men 1 to 5 were arrested on February 6, and A 6 to A 8 on Feb 9, and A 9 on Feb 10 and accused A 10 on Feb 12 and were produced before a local court and remanded to judicial custody.

While local police initially probed the case, it was taken up by the NIA on April 25, 2019.

Also, the NIA said it was seen in the statement of witnesses that a conspiracy was hatched by the accused to "do away with deceased Ramalingam," as he was against Muslims indulging in "forceful conversion" of Hindus to Islam and this aspect too warranted further investigation.

The probe agency said the accused acted as members of terrorist gang to achieve their goal.

The accused (A 11 to A 16) are absconding, NIA said.

The agency said the accused had surplus funds though they were not properly employed and hence it has to be probed to ascertain if any foreign funding reached the accused.

Counsels for the accused objected to the prosecution plea seeking extension of detention.

Praying for the dismissal of the plea, the defence said the respondents did not commit any offence as alleged by NIA and submitted that they were falsely implicated.

They also said the Popular Front of India (of which the accused are allegedly members) was not a banned outfit (in Tamil Nadu) and hence commission of a terror act by members of a terrorist organisation does not fall within the ambit of the UAP Act.

The PFI is banned in several States, the NIA contended.

After hearing the argument of both sides, special court Judge P Chenthoorpandi, citing their arguments, said under Section 2(1) of the UAP Act, a terrorist gang means any association other than terrorist organisation, whether systematic or otherwise.

"Whatever it may be, such a point does not deserve any consideration in this petition," the judge observed.

The prosecution report and a perusal of records showed that the probe by the NIA "needs to go further and cannot be completed within the period of 90 days," the court said.

Allowing NIA's plea, the court extended the custody of 10 men accused in the case by upto 180 days.