NEW DELHI— In submissions before a Delhi court last month, Mohd Shoeb, a 22-year-old college student, said he was taken into “illegal custody” at 3 am from his house in Shaheen Bagh on 27 September and at no point did the Delhi police tell his family members the reasons for bringing him into custody and where he would be held.
On 28 November, additional sessions judge Sanjay Khanagwal granted bail to Shoeb and seven other Muslim men accused by the Delhi police of being members of the recently banned Popular Front of India (PFI) and advocating, abetting and assisting unlawful activities of banned organisations—the Rehab India Foundation, All India Imams Council and the PFI.
The Delhi police accused Shoeb, Sheikh Gulfam Hussain, Abdullah, Mohsin Khan, Habeeb Asghar Jamali, Abdul Rab, Mohd Waris Khan and Mohd Shoaib s/o Mahmood Ahmed for raising PFI slogans in Shaheen Bagh and they claim to have recovered PFI flags and pamphlets of ‘PFI zindabad’ from them.
While granting bail to the eight men, Khanagwal said the Delhi police had provided no “incriminating material”, bank details or call records to support their allegations that the accused were aiding and assisting any unlawful organisation, given that they were in custody from before the ban was made public on 28 September 2022.
Khanagwal made the following observations:
“The record shows at the time of the ban on PFI, the accused persons were already in custody.”
“The IO has not been able to show sufficient incriminating material against the accused persons collected during the investigative that as to when accused persons were in custody from 27.09.2022 and remained in Tihar jail till 4 October 2022 or 3 October 2022 then how the accused persons have carried out such activities which are aimed at advocating, abetting or inciting/assisting any unlawful activity of the unlawful organisation.”
“IO has submitted that the bank details of the PFI have been recovered and investigation in this regard is going on to establish the link of the accused persons with the funding in the bank account of PFI. The material collected during the investigation is silent as to the role of the accused persons in financial activities or in advocating the activities of unlawful organisation after its ban being its member.”
“So far as analysing the call detail records of the accused persons is concerned, they are already in the possession of the IO and even from that also, nothing could be shown to prove that the accused persons were involved in the unlawful activity from the date of declaring PFI as unlawful organisation till their arrest in the present.”
The first information report (FIR) 355/2022, registered on 29 September against unknown persons at the Shaheen Bagh police station, based on a complaint by a police inspector, invoked India’s anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 — section 10—penalty for being a member of an unlawful association, and section 13—punishment for unlawful activities.
Khanagwal noted these sections are not part of the strict restriction on bail under Chapters IV and VI (related to terrorist activities and terrorist organisations) as provided under 43-D UAPA.
“There is no allegation of involvement of accused persons in any terrorist activities, and offence alleged against that accused persons is not punishable for more than seven years,” said Khanagwal in the bail order.
Arresting Muslim Men
The jailing of Shoeb and his seven co-accused mirrors other instances where the Delhi police have proceeded overwhelmingly against Muslim men: of the 18 people charged in the Delhi riots conspiracy case, 16 are Muslim even though two-thirds of the 53 people killed in the communal violence were Muslim.
While granting bail to student activists Asif Iqbal Tanha, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, accused in the conspiracy case, the Delhi High Court said police had not made out a prima facie case of a terrorist act, and the use of “superfluous verbiage, hyperbole and stretched inferences”, did not make it one.
Two years after the Delhi riots, the police said 2,456 people had been arrested—798 Hindus and 812 Muslims. In a series of cases granting bail, Delhi courts said the police were responsible for “vague evidence and general allegations,” a “shoddy probe”, “absolutely evasive”, and a “lackadaisical” attitude. The police have been accused of investigations that are “callous”, “casual”, “farcical”, “poor”, or “painful to see”.
Indian Muslims make up 18.7% of India’s prison population, down from 20.3% in 2020, but still consistently higher than the Muslim population in India, 14.2% of 1.2 billion people.
This story was originally published in article-14.com . Read the full story here