A special tribunal on Thursday upheld the ban on Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation. In November 2016, the central government had banned the foundation for five years under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
The tribunal headed by justice Sangeeta Dhingra said, “The entire material placed on record shows that the IRF was involved in activities which not only incite and encourage the youth to under take the unlawful activities with and intent to threaten the sovereignty, unity, integrity and security of India,” PTI reported. It added that the IRF also caused “disaffection” against the country, leaving “no doubt that the ingredients of section… of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967 are met and there is every reason to conclude that the IRF be declared as an unlawful association.”
Naik had appealed against the Centre’s decision to ban the IRF, but the Delhi High Court had dismissed his plea, saying it had been done to protect national security.
A National Investigation Agency court had issued a non-bailable warrant against Naik on April 20. On April 13, a special court in Mumbai had issued an open-dated, non-bailable warrant against Naik in connection with a case of money laundering registered against him by the Enforcement Directorate. The central agency had moved court saying that Naik had failed to show up despite repeated summons. It had also said it would seek an Interpol notice against him to curb his movements out of Saudi Arabia, where he is currently based, if he failed to turn up before it by April 17.
In response, Naik had challenged the Indian authorities to find him in Malaysia. “Such a cowardly investigation. They [India] have got no guts. If they want to interview me face to face, then come over here and talk. Come to neutral ground,” he was quoted as saying.
The Mumbai-born preacher said that he was not willing to present himself before the NIA. “I told them that I am ready to be interviewed on Skype, phone and through video-conferencing. If I go there, they will torture me. So, why should I go there? They have done that to other Muslims and I have got proof,” he claimed.
The televangelist has been on the government’s radar since allegations arose that he had inspired one of the terrorists behind the Dhaka restaurant attack on July 1, 2016. He was also accused of meeting two brothers from Kerala who were among those who went missing in West Asia and were feared to have joined the Islamic State.