Court lifts ban on SIMI, home ministry says no setback (Lead)

August 6th, 2008 - 12:56 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 5 (IANS) A special tribunal here Tuesday lifted the ban on the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), desingated a terror organisation by the government, but the home ministry put up a brave face saying it would take corrective steps before the revocation of the ban is implemented. “The material given by the home ministry is insufficient, so the ban cannot be continued,” Justice Geeta Mittal, a Delhi High Court judge who headed the tribunal, said in her 267-page order that was given to the ministry late Tuesday in a sealed cover.

The order sent a wave of shock among the intelligence and police offcers.

The SIMI had challenged the ban on it renewed on Feb 7, 2008, and the special tribunal had reserved its verdict Friday after hearing arguments from it and the government.

Taken aback by the order, the ministry, which maintains the SIMI is still active and continues to receive clandestine support from foreign countries, put up a brave front.

“We will examine on what technical grounds the ban has been lifted. We are studying the order and will see that everything is done” before the tribunal order becomes effective, Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta told IANS. But he refused to say whether the order would be challenged.

Asked if the lifting of the ban would be a blow to the government’s efforts to stamp out terrorism, Gupta said: “I don’t think so. We are on the job and I feel our efforts to tackle terror groups will continue.”

“Necessary remedial action will be taken on priority.”

SIMI was founded in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, in 1977 by Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi as an offshoot to the Jamaat-e-Islami.

The organisation advocates the “liberation of India” and restoring Islamic rule, according to its declared objective.

It saw slow growth even in Muslim-dominated areas until December 1992 when the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya sparked one of the worst communal violences in the country since independence in 1947.

In the context of the terror attacks over the past two years, the organisation has been under the scanner though investigators have yet to come out with anything conclusive to nail its members.

Early this year, the police arrested 10 top SIMI activists, including its runaway chief Safdar Nagori.

Trideep Pais, one of the lawyers appearing for SIMI, told IANS: “The lifting of the ban on SIMI is a moral victory for us. The notification issued by the government was wrong. But a hitch still remains about its functioning as it is still listed as a terrorist organisation.”

SIMI had challenged the two-year ban re-imposed on it by the central government on Feb 7, 2008.

The radical outfit, earlier banned in 2001 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, comprises young students committed to establish a Dar-ul-Islam or land of Islam.

The tribunal was specially constituted to adjudicate on the question whether or not there was sufficient cause for declaring SIMI an unlawful association.

Justice Mittal held in-camera proceedings and was briefed by senior home ministry and intelligence officials.

The judge asked them to bring on record the facts on the basis of which the ban was imposed. She said the government cannot extend the ban on the basis of earlier records against the organisation.

“What precluded the government from stating the facts? You have to satisfy the tribunal about the sufficiency of the reason behind issuing a fresh notification (on the ban),” Justice Mittal said.

The government, on the other hand, justified the notification, saying it can ban such organisation even in anticipation.

Home ministry spokesman Omkar Kedia told reporters: “Preliminary perusal of the tribunal’s order shows that the ban on SIMI has not been upheld on technical grounds. Home ministry will examiner the order in details and look for all possible remedies. Necessary remedial; action will be taken on priority.”

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