Supreme Court orders translation of NIA's digital evidence against lawyer accused of PFI links

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Abbas is accused of being a core team member of PFI involved in spreading its extremist ideology, planning unlawful and terrorist acts, organising marches, raising funds for PFI, and recruiting members for terrorist activities

The Supreme Court today ordered for translation of audio evidence submitted against Madurai based Advocate M Mohammed Abbas, who is accused under UAPA, on charges of being an important core team leader of the banned organisation Popular Front of India (PFI).

A bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Pankaj Mithal has posted the matter now for hearing on September 27.

Court was hearing a plea filed by NIA challenging the Madras High Court order granting bail to Abbas. ASG SV Raju appeared before the Court today on behalf of NIA. He submitted a pend drive with evidence before the court.

Noting that there was some controversy over the translation the bench directed the Registry to submit the tapes to the Registrar General of the Madras High Court for translation.

Senior Advocate R Basant, appearing for Abbas protested against his client's incarceration to which the court agreed to respond on the next date after the evidence was duly translated.

Abbas was arrested by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) on charges of being an important core team leader of the banned organisation Popular Front of India (PFI).

While allowing bail to Abbas, the bench of Justice M Sundar and R Sakthivel observed that no specific accusation had been leveled by the NIA against Abbas and the trial court itself had said that the question of Abbas' absconding may not arise since he is an Advocate.

"Except broad averments in the nature of suspicion of involvement of what is described as other members of 'banned terrorist organisation of PFI' in further investigation application there is no accusation with specificity qua petitioner," noted the bench. 

The bench further stated that PFI has not been listed as 'terrorist organisation' in the First Schedule of UAPA rather it has been declared vide Government of India notification as 'unlawful association.

"This means that there are effectively no Chapter IV and Chapter VI accusations with specificity qua petitioner. The sequitur, is Section 43D(5) and proviso thereat does not operate or come into play at all," held the bench. 

The NIA arrested Abbas on May 9 this year. It was alleged that Abbas, along with others, was involved in spreading the extremist ideology of PFI including planning of unlawful acts, planning of terrorist acts, organising marches, raising of funds for committing terrorist activities, and recruitment of members for such activities.

The trial court rejected Abbas' bail plea on June 20, 2023. Thereafter, Abbas moved the high court seeking bail as well as a direction to quash the case against him. 

It was his argument that his arraying in the matter was actuated by mala fide and malice as it was solely owing to a post made by him on Facebook on March 6, 2023 about alleged mistreatment / custodial torture of an accused in the Tamil Nadu PFI criminal conspiracy case.

Case Title: Union of India vs. M. Mohamed Abbas