The Bombay High Court observed on Friday while awarding bail to a person convicted in the 2006 Aurangabad Arms Haul Case [Bilal Ahmed Abdul Razaq vs The State of Maharashtra]. Simply attending a militant meeting or being exhorted to join Jihad is not good enough to hold that the concerned person was willing to play a major role in Jihad.
Arms Haul Case:
The case relates to a Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad operation on May 8, 2006, in which three terror suspects in a car were apprehended on the Chandwad-Manmad highway near Aurangabad.
The ATS recovered 30 kg of RDX, 10 AK-47 army assault weapons, 3,200 rounds of ammunition, and other items from them, which were reportedly intended for terror attacks in the country. Another suspect vehicle was handled to elude the ATS.
It was believed to have been driven by escaped Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal. In 2016, Prosecutor Bagade told the court, “One arm-filled tempo is still at large. The offense can still be committed again. Another module could exist.”
The offense can still be committed again. Perhaps there will be another module.”The defendants were convicted under various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the Explosives Substances Act, and the Arms Act.
The case became well-known after the special judge who presided over the trial and prosecuted seven defendants in 2016 stated in his decision that the seven were part of a bigger conspiracy to assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
In its bail order issued on Friday, a Division Bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and Virendra Singh Bisht stated that while confessional statements of other co-accused against the appellant Bilal Ahmed Abdul Razaq that he was engaged in the prevalent thought process/conspiracy to strike Jihad were present, they would not be adequate in the apparent lack of other reliable evidence.
“In its July 28, 2016, judgment, the special court also stated that the appellant accompanied other suspected to Kashmir to meet June (a Pakistani national and member of Lashkar-e-Taiba), where he was presented to other militants.
In our opinion, simply attending the meetings or being exhorted to join Jihad does not constitute a readiness or eagerness on his part to play a big part in Jihad, especially when there is no prima-facie eloquent and persuasive evidence against him.
In the aforementioned confessional statement, no incriminating act is attributed to him “the bench upheld the decision. In 2016, the accused was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Special Judge under the MCOC Act for offenses under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the Explosive Substances Act, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
According to the Prosecution, the State Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) received secret information about a large number of armaments loaded in a jeep to be transported to Aurangabad for a terror attack.
The jeep was stopped, and the main suspects were apprehended.
They later confessed to the anti-terrorist agency, implicating the current appellant. After reviewing the confessional statements, the special judge concluded that the recovered weapons, ammunition, and explosives were intended to be used to assassinate Gujarat’s then-chief minister, Narendra Modi, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia.
According to the Special Judge, prime accused Mohammad Amer Shakil Ahmed Shaikh, along with other accused, shared a common thought process for carrying out Jihad since 1999 and were all deeply involved in a larger conspiracy to carry out terror against India and Hindus while calling and propagating it as Jihad.
These men had the backing of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and were in constant contact with accused June, a Pakistani national and LeT member. The High Court, however, noted from the record that the appellant was not prosecuted under the rigorous Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA), and thus the confessional statements recorded against the appellant under Section 18 of the act were insignificant.
“Thus, the Special Judge’s area study on the said confessional statement as noted by him in his judgment prima facie appear to be unfounded on the material on record,” the bench noted. Furthermore, the judges noted that the special court had noticed that the appellant’s Call Data Records (CDR) was not placed on record.
“On the one side, the Special Judge finds that the appellant’s CDR was not produced, while on the other hand, he holds that the discussion between him and a co-accused (for acquiring arms) was duly proved on the grounds of a phone call, the nature of which phone call the Special Judge does not specify.
Regardless, the truth stands that no CDR was presented to the Special Judge, and thus an adverse inference must inevitably find its way into the record “the court ruled. As a result, the judges determined that the appellant had made a strong case for bail and suspended his sentences pending the determination and final disposition of his appeal.
“It must be remembered that the appellant has been imprisoned for more than 16 years, so this material aspect must be considered. As a result, we are inclined to confer the current application “the bench stated.