No religion propagates terrorism; fanatics distort religious views, spread hatred: Kerala High Court

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While dealing with a case that involved youth from Kerala allegedly joining banned terrorist organisation Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/Daish), the Kerala High Court recently lamented the effects of distorting religious views to spread hatred and terrorism. [Abdul Razak @ Abu Ahmed v. National Investigation Agency]
A Division Bench of Justices Alexander Thomas and Sophy Thomas was considering an appeal moved by three persons convicted by a trial court under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for attempting to join ISIS/Daish, with a view to indulge in violent jihad.

“Terrorism is an evil affecting the life and liberty of people. It affects the growth of the nation in all respects. In fact, no religion propagates terrorism or hatred. But, unfortunately, some fanatics or religious fundamentalists have distorted the views of religion, for spreading messages of terrorism and hatred, without realising the amount of damage it is doing to the society as well as to the country as a whole,” the Bench observed.

It further remarked on the fact that it is often innocent youngsters that fall for the calls of terrorist organisations and end up indulging in anti-national activities.

“Innocent youth attracted by the call of terrorist organisations fall prey to violence and anti national activities, destroying the tranquility in society, unmindful of the freedom, liberty, and safety of their fellow beings, and the integrity of the nation,” the judgment stated.

The judgment was delivered on applications moved by the three convicts seeking suspension of sentence and release on bail during the pendency of their appeal against the order of a Special Court that convicted them in July of last year.

Two of the accused were sentenced to seven years and one to six years rigorous imprisonment. The sentences were to be offset by the time they had spent behind bars already.

Subsequently, they moved the High Court challenging the Special Court’s order.

The appellants were arrested in October 2017 and have been imprisoned since then. They argued that the sentence imposed on them ought to be suspended until their appeals are decided.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), however, urged the Court to dismiss the applications, contending that there is every chance that they might abscond and carry out terrorist activities again.

The Court observed that appellate courts have the discretion with regard to suspension of sentence and that apart from the period of incarceration already undergone, the nature of the accusations against the accused, the manner in which the crime was alleged to have been committed, the gravity of the offence and its social impact must also be considered.

In this case, the Court said it would not be safe to suspend the appellants’ sentences since there was no way to know whether they are “having sleeping volcanoes of terrorism in their mind to indulge in violent jihad.”

“Here is a case where the applicants/appellants acted against the interest of the nation as they wanted to wage war against Syria, an Asiatic power at peace with the Government of India. So, even if the applicants/appellants have undergone major portion of the sentence imposed on them, it is not safe to release them on bail, as we do not know whether they still entertain the idea of performing Hijra to Syria for indulging in violent jihad,” the Court elaborated.

The Court ultimately refused to grant bail to the three convicts and dismissed the applications.

The appellants were represented by Advocates Vishnu Babu, Pranoy K Kottaram, P Yadhu Kumar and Swetha KS.

Deputy Solicitor General for India S Manu appeared for the NIA.

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