Centre opposes Asiya Andrabi-led group’s plea to quash notification declaring outfit ‘terrorist organisation’

The Centre has opposed a plea moved by the ‘Dukhtaran-E-Millat’ before the Delhi high court against an 18-year-old notification declaring it as a “terrorist organisation” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, arguing that the group appears to be “feigning ignorance” about the same.

A single judge bench of Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta was hearing a plea moved by the group headed by Kashmiri separatist leader Asiya Andrabi, wherein it was prayed that the notification of December 30, 2004 be quashed which declares them as “unlawful” and a “terrorist organisation” under the UAPA.

The all-women group has further sought a direction to the Centre to provide a copy of the notification “banning” them or a “notification by which it has been declared to be a terrorist organization”. The plea filed through advocates Dhruv Tamta and Shariq Iqbal further seeks a direction to the Centre to remove the group from the “array of organizations mentioned in the first schedule to the UAPA”.

Senior Counsel Satish Tamta appeared for the group and argued that after coming to know for the first time that the petitioner has been declared as a banned organization under UAPA, one of the members of the group moved an RTI application seeking details of the ban. Thereafter, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) filed a reply on May 13, 2019 stating that the group had been added to the first Schedule of UAPA through the impugned notification and “no other information is available with them”, he argued. The group moved an appeal against the reply of the CPIO which was dismissed by the Joint Secretary, (CTCR) First Appellate Authority on July 19, 2019, Tamta said.

Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma challenged the maintainability of the plea and said the “petitioner organization appears to be feigning ignorance and wrongly seeks the indulgence of this Court on the basis of the reply to the RTI application in the year 2019”. He argued that notification “relating to the petitioner organization which is a terrorist organization” is covered under “Chapter VI of UAPA, 1967 and a reference to Chapter II has been wrongly made on behalf of petitioner”.

The ASG contended that the plea cannot be entertained after a delay of about two decades and no such presumption can be made that the group was unaware of the Act of the Parliament. Sharma further sought an opportunity to make detailed submissions. The High Court thereafter listed the matter on December 15 granting opportunity to the Centre to file brief submission within four weeks.

The plea claims that the notification was passed without following procedure as per law and is ultra vires Article 19 and Article 21 of the Constitution.

“Before an organization is added to the First schedule of the UAPA, 1967, the Notification u/s 3 has to be passed which has to be confirmed by a UAPA Tribunal u/s 4 of the UAPA, 1967. That no such procedure has been followed by the respondent before adding the Petitioner to the first schedule,” the plea claims.

The group has also alleged that there is no notification by which they have been banned or labelled as a terrorist organisation but has only been “slipped-in via amendment issued and this unbridled power has been exercised in the most mechanical manner”. According to the plea, the declaration under the act was for a period of two years and it’s only after the 2013 amendment that the period for ban is for five years.

“After 2 years the ban is over, and until and unless there is new material, the ban cannot be renewed…the UAPA does not contemplate banning for an indefinite period” the plea contends. Additionally the process of adding the group to the list of banned organisations would have proceeded by a notification showing the subjective satisfaction of the concerned authority which itself shows flagrant abuse of the power of the Respondent,” the plea states.

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