Bail Refused to Defendant Charged Under UAPA for Supporting ISIS Ideology and Organizing Illegal Weapons: Delhi High Court

Case title: Jamsheed Zahoor Paul v. State of NCT of Delhi

Case no: CRL.A. 51/2024

Dated on: 24th April, 2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Mr Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Manoj Jain

Facts of the case:

Special Cell (New Delhi Range), Lodhi Colony received information that two persons i.e. Parvaiz Rashid Lone and Jamsheed Zahoor Paul (appellant herein) were radicalized youths of Jammu & Kashmir, having allegiance to banned terrorist organization ISIS/SI/DAESH. As per intelligence inputs, they had procured arms and ammunition from UP for their cadres for executing some terrorist act in Jammu & Kashmir and would come at Netaji Subhash Park, near Lal Quila (Red Fort), Delhi on 07.09.2018 to proceed to Kashmir. Both the aforesaid named suspects were found moving towards Lal Qila. Search of the appellant yielded recovery of one pistol, containing five live cartridges in its magazine. From the possession of Parvaiz Rashid Lone (A-1) also, one pistol was recovered. These were seized. The police tracked them. They were found to be juvenile in conflict with law (JCL) and, therefore, separate report was prepared against them, which was filed before concerned Juvenile Justice Board (JJB). During investigation, both the accused divulged that they were propagating ideology of terrorist outfit ISIS in India and were in touch with another ISIS militant, namely, Abdullah Basith. Though, initially, FIR had been registered for commission of offence under Section 25 Arms Act, after detailed investigation and on the basis of the incriminating material collected during investigation, penal provisions of Section 18 & 20 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) were added. Both the accused were accordingly charge-sheeted for commission of offences under Section 25 Arms Act and for Sections 18 & 20 of UAPA. Main charge-sheet was submitted on 28.02.2019. Appellant had earlier also moved one application seeking bail which was dismissed and it was withdrawn on 06.06.2019. He moved another bail application which, too, was dismissed on 01.05.2020, feeling aggrieved, he preferred Criminal Appeal 345/2021 which was, however, not pressed and resultantly, the same was dismissed by this court on 31.01.2022 charges were framed on 25.04.2022. It was thereafter only that the appellant moved another bail application which also did not find favour and was dismissed by the learned trial court. When Appellant was interrogated, he revealed names of various cadres of ISIS (J&KModule) with whom he was in touch through social media, Black Berry Messenger (BBM) and Facebook etc. Some of such cadres of ISIS had already been shot dead in encounter. The mobile phones, recovered from both the accused, were sent to CERT-In for retrieval of data and its forensic analysis. Such analysis indicated that they both were not only involved in procuring sophisticated weapons for banned terrorist organization but also shared information about the movement of Army to other terrorists in Kashmir. Role, involvement and complicity of the appellant also stood exposed whose profile picture on BBM contained four terrorists, two of whom carrying AK-47 Rifles.

Contentions of the appellant:

According, to the learned counsel for appellant, allegations on record, even if those are taken on their face value, do not show commission of any offence under Section 18 & 20 of UAPA and at best, without admitting anything, it can be said to be a case of recovery of arms. It is contended that though the charges have been ascertained by the learned Trial Court and these have not been assailed so far, it is still legally permissible for the appellant to seek bail and to demonstrate that the bar provided under Section 43D (5) of UAPA does not stand attracted. There is no material to show that appellant had indulged into any unlawful or terrorist act, much less attribution of any overt act on his part. The entire case of prosecution is dependent upon the disclosure statements of the accused persons and these statements have no evidentiary value, being inadmissible in law. There is nothing to indicate that any message or BBM chat retrieved from the electronic device of the appellant had any potential to indicate that he was in contact with any terrorist. Appellant could not be branded as “terrorist‟ or a “person involved in terrorist act” merely on the basis of the recovery of a pistol and, therefore, invocation of draconian provision of UAPA is totally mis-founded and unwarranted. There is nothing to indicate that the appellant was a member of ISIS or their purported fronts. There is nothing to suggest that he was radicalized and was associated or was otherwise furthering the activities of ISIS. Merely because there was some BBM Chat retrieved from the electronic devise of his co-accused, appellant could not have been held to be a co-conspirator. Mere framing of charge does not create any embargo against grant of bail as the consideration for framing the charge is different from the one required for grant of bail. At the stage of consideration of bail, Court is merely required to undertake surface-level analysis of probative value of the evidence in order to satisfy test of “prima facie true” and if such analysis is carried out, it would clearly go on to show that there is no admissible evidence on record indicating commission of offences under Section 18 & 20 of UAPA. Appellant has undergone incarceration for more than five and half years and the trial is not likely to conclude any time soon and, therefore, his fundamental right as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India has been seriously jeopardized, entitling him to be released on bail on that count alone.

Contention of the respondent:

There are serious allegations against the appellant and the learned Trial Court has already come to a definite conclusion that there is a prima facie case against him for offences under Section 18 & 20 UAPA. According to the respondents, there are following clearcut allegations and if all these allegations are read conjunctively, it would clearly reveal his complicity qua offences under Section 18 & 20 UAPA. One loaded pistol was recovered from his possession and he disclosed that he had purchased the same from four juveniles. Such fact was found to be correct as the police was able to reach those juveniles and they were apprehended and admitted that weapons in question had been sold by them to the accused persons, in lieu of money. Appellant was found in possession of two electronic devices and when the data was retrieved, it was found that he was found using Black Berry Messenger for communicating with his associates. His BBM ID was deciphered and the profile picture of Black Berry Messenger depicted four terrorists holding AK47 rifles and pistols in their hands. Appellant and his co-accused had procured illicit arms and had come to Delhi together and were to leave for Kashmir together in furtherance of their conspiracy. BBM chats retrieved from the electronic devices from his co-accused clearly suggested that there was incriminating communication of precarious nature between him and Adil Thokar. Appellant had, on the directions of Omar @ Umar Iban Nazir, met one Abdullah Basith. Such Abdullah Basith was later arrested by NIA and the fact of there being a meeting between them was confirmed and substantiated by NIA. Motive of such meeting was to procure weapons for terrorist activity and the record of Shaka Guest House confirmed his such visit. appellant with his co-accused not only conspired to commit terrorist act but also procured weapons and in pursuit of their abominable objective for perpetuating terror, they both, on the direction of Adil Thokar and Umar Iban Nazir, arranged weapons through JCLs and came to Delhi via flight and even sent the images of recovered pistol to their handlers through BBM. The BBM chats from the electronic device of his coaccused clearly indicated that he was even discussing about the movement of Army in Kashmir which clearly exposes their nefarious design.

Legal Provisions:

Section 18 & 20 of UAPA- Punishment for Organizing Terrorist Camps-Anyone who engages in conspiracies, preparations, or attempts to organize a terrorist camp or provides encouragement, advice, or instigation for such activities shall be subject to imprisonment. The term of imprisonment shall not be less than five years, but it may extend to life imprisonment. Additionally, a fine may also be imposed. Punishment for Being a Member of a Terrorist Gang or Organization If an individual knowingly becomes a member of a terrorist gang, organization, or supports such entities, they shall be liable for punishment. The imprisonment term shall not be less than five years, but it may extend to life imprisonment. Furthermore, they may also be fined. Section 43D(5) of UAPA- makes it virtually hard to grant a bail.Section 10 of Evidence Act- pertains to the admissibility of evidence in cases involving conspiracy.


  1. Whether in view of the fact that charges have already been framed and such charges have not been challenged by the appellant, whether bail plea can be considered and whether the court can go on to opine that there are no reasonable grounds for believing the accusation to be prima facie true?
  2. What should be the level of scrutiny for believing the same? Whether the appellant has been able to show that there is no prima facie case against him? Whether despite such statutory bar being in place and when prima facie is found to be made out, bail can still be granted in order to safeguard his fundamental rights.

Court analysis and Judgement:

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Gurwinder Singh vs. State of Punjab & Anr. 2024 SCC On-Line SC 109, the impact of Section 43D (5) of UAPA was delineated and it was observed that the conventional idea in bail jurisprudence – bail is the rule and jail is the exception – does not find any place in UAPA. It further observed that exercise of general power to grant bail under UAPA is severely restrictive in scope. It went on to hold that in view of said statutory bar contained under Section 43D (5) of UAPA, if the
offences fall under Chapter IV and/or Chapter VI of UAPA and there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation is prima facie true, bail must be rejected as a rule. Gurwinder Singh (supra) also discussed National Investigation Agency v. Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali: 2019 SCC On-Line SC 461 which lays down elaborate guidelines about the approach that the Courts must partake in, while considering bail application under UAPA. In context of the meaning attributable to “prima facie true‟, it observed that material collected by the investigating agency, on the face of it, must show the complicity of the accused in relation to the offence and must be good and sufficient to establish a given fact or chain of facts constituting the stated offence, unless rebutted or contradicted by other evidence. It also observed that at the stage of giving reasons for grant or rejection of bail, the elaborate examination or dissection of evidence was not required and the Court is merely expected to record a finding on the basis of broad probabilities. Thus, once charges are framed, it can be easily assumed that there is a very strong suspicion against the accused. Therefore, in such a situation, the task of any such accused becomes much more onerous and challenging as it is never going to be easy for anyone to satisfy that the same set of material, which compelled the court to frame charges on the basis of strong prima facie case, would persuade it to hold to the contrary, by declaring that such accusation was not prima facie true. Be that as it may, there can never be any restriction or embargo on moving application seeking bail. Such unfettered right remains available as long as the proceedings are alive. Moreover, in view of specific observations made in National Investigation Agency v. Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali (supra) as elaborated in Gurwinder Singh (supra), Court can always consider such bail application, even after framing of charges, the rider being the onus on accused would be much more rigorous in such a situation. The first two facets stand answered accordingly. As per allegations appearing on record and facts and circumstances placed before the court, the appellant was continuously in touch with his co-accused, travelling with him and arranging weapons. He was in touch with militants as well and met one of them in Delhi. Conspiracy, as the cliché goes, is hatched in secrecy and very rarely, there would be any visible evidence suggesting clear-cut conspiracy. On most of the occasions, conspiracy has to be inferred by connecting dots from bunch of circumstances. Moreover, Section 10 of Evidence Act cannot be kept aside which visualizes such type of situation and makes the actions and the statements of coconspirator to be relevant as against the others. Such action or statement can even be used for proving the existence of conspiracy. Thus, at this stage, appellant does not seem to be in any position to wriggle out of the statutory bar contained in proviso of Section 43D (5) of UAPA as there are clear-cut allegations which go on to indicate that accusation against him is prima facie true. This observation is based on broad probabilities and surface analysis of material collected by respondent. Each case has to be evaluated in the backdrop of its factual background. Moreover, in view of our forgoing discussion and material on record, the appellant seems part of conspiracy and when a full-fledged trial is already underway, we would refrain from embarking upon a mini-trial to dissect each circumstance, threadbare. The appellant was in touch with cadres of ISIS which is sufficient to give insight of his culpable mind. In Arup Bhuyan v. State of Assam, (2023) 8 SCC 745, it has been observed that mere membership of banned organization is also sufficient to incriminate, without there being any overt act. Moreover, the factum of connection and association with any banned outfit has to be inferred from the attendant circumstances and the activities of the person concerned. There will never be a tangible piece of evidence or any kind of documentary proof in this regard, particularly once any such organization is banned. Learned counsel for the appellant has prayed that accused has already undergone incarceration for more than 5 ½ years and trial is not likely to conclude in near future. It is argued that he was just 19 years of age when he was arrested and at that time, he was at an important threshold of his educational and professional career. It is argued that though case is already at the stage of trial and the prosecution has examined nine out of cited twenty-seven witnesses, there is no likelihood of case getting disposed of in near future and, therefore, on the strength of Union of India v. K.A. Najeeb, (2021) 3 SCC 713, it is prayed that despite the aforesaid statutory bar, Constitution Court can always grant bail so that the right of speedy trial and that of life and liberty do not stand defeated.
Thus, as per K.A. Najeeb (supra), despite the above statutory restriction contained in UAPA, the Constitutional Courts can consider grant of bail on the ground of violation of Part-III of the Constitution. However, in the case in hand, the maximum sentence provided under Section 18 & 20 UAPA is imprisonment for life and there is nothing which may indicate that prosecution is acting in a manner which is detrimental to his fundamental rights as provided under Part-III of the Constitution of India. Trial Court Record does not suggest any deliberate attempt on the part of prosecution to slow down the trial and, therefore, at this juncture, merely because of the above incarceration period, the accused does not become entitled to bail. The learned trial court has already observed that it, being already conscious about such fundamental right of the accused, was taking up the matter diligently by giving shortest possible dates. Therefore, there is no further requirement of passing any further direction in this regard. 

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Judgement reviewed by- Parvathy P.V

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