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Why HC tribunal lifted the ban on SIMI
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August 10, 2008 15:23 IST

Government may have got a breather from the Supreme Court on continuing with the ban on Students Islamic Movement of India but the findings of the special tribunal about the 'sorry state of affairs' in the Home Ministry questioned the seriousness of authorities in buttressing its case.

The tribunal, while lifting the ban on SIMI [Images], was at pains to make scathing remarks against senior Home Ministry officials as they appeared before it without any preparation about the case.

"I would fail in my duty if I need not comment on the manner in which deposition has been made by witness appearing for the government (senior Home Ministry officials)," Justice Geeta Mittal, a Delhi [Images] High Court Judge who headed the Tribunal, said in the 263-page order.

The Tribunal, which was looking for new evidence from the government for extending the ban on SIMI, expressed concern that senior officials who were required to strengthen the case were not aware of the facts.

"It is equally sorry state of affairs when a senior officer of the Central government appears before the tribunal to submit that he is not aware with regard to matters, which are put to him," Justice Mittal said.

Several senior officials including Home Secretary, Jt Secretary and Intelligence Bureau IB officers had appeared before the tribunal.

"It is certainly no excuse to say that you were not posted in the department responsible for the decision making. Appearing as a witness for the Union government, it becomes the duty and the responsibility of such officer to be fully aware of the matter with regard to which he is going to depose," the tribunal said.

It took strong objection to government's notification of February seven extending ban on SIMI without making any effort to put new grounds as it was copied version of the 2006 notification, in which deficiencies were pointed out by the earlier tribunal.

"It is shocking to know that for a minor re-arrangement of some words for a few words at the end of the notification, the notification of 2008 is almost a verbatim reproduction of the notification which was issued in 2006," the tribunal said.

"With deep pain I would say that this is the most callous disregard of the statutory duty," Justice Mittal said while pointing out the infirmities showed by the earlier tribunal were not only repeated, the notification was also reproduced verbatim.

Though the tribunal refrained from giving findings on the merits of the allegations against SIMI, it was of the opinion that the government failed to come out with a single evidence to show the complicity of the organisation in unlawful activities.

"Even a single witness or a single case may be sufficient to support the claim of the government that an association is indulging in activities which is covered within the definition under the Act," it said, adding that government did not provide documentary evidence to support its cases against the organisation.

While references to some alleged members of the organisation has been made as well as the incidents of recovery, however, dates of the offences, details of the FIR registered or the details of the pending prosecution are not mentioned. Most allegations made in the background note are not supported by any deposition or document, the order said.

The tribunal objected to the issuance of background note to justify the ban, a month after the notification to ban was made public.

"The requirement to furnish complete grounds is statutory and cannot be supplied by the background note. Such background note cannot be utilised to furnish the deficiencies in the notification which really has to satisfy the statutory prescription by itself," the order said.

While concluding the order, the judge said, "I make it clear that nothing herein contained is an expression of opinion on the merits of the reference with regard to the allegation made by the authority."

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