New Delhi: A month after National Investigating Agency (NIA) suffered huge embarrassment when Interpol cancelled the Red corner Notice issued against Dr. Zakir Naik, the Judicial Tribunal on Tuesday pulled the Enforcement Directorate (ED) over its investigation against the Islamic preacher.
Justice Manmohan Singh, head of the Appellate Tribunal for PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) at New Delhi, restrained the ED from taking over Naik’s properties in Mumbai attached by the agency.
While drawing a parallel comparison between Naik and self-styled godman Asaram Bapu, Justice Manmohan Singh said, “I can name 10 spiritual leaders who have properties worth more than Re 10,000 crore each and they are facing criminal cases. Have you acted against even one of them? What have you done against Asaram Bapu?” the Judge questioned ED.
The Tribunal also raised questions whether ED was being selective in acting against Naik, and its chairman observed that the ED has done nothing in last 10 years about confiscating properties of Asaram but it looked to act a lot quicker in this case.
The Tribunal also grilled the ED’s counsel on the grounds as to why the properties required to be attached when the chargesheet had not made out appropriate scheduled offences.
In his reply, when the lawyer said that Naik instigated youths through his speeches, Justice Singh pointed out the ED did not produce any prima facie evidence or statements in last few months from “such misguided youths” as to how these speeches pushed them to commit illegal acts.
“Have you recorded anybody’s statement as to how they were influenced by these speeches? Your chargesheet does not even mention how these speeches played any role in a terror attack in Dhaka in 2015,” he said.
Justice Singh continued and said that it appeared the ED, for the sake of its own convenience, ignored 99 per cent of these speeches and relied upon only 1 per cent.
“Have you read the speeches which form part of your chargesheet? I have heard many of these speeches and I can tell you that so far I haven’t come across anything objectionable,” the judge said to the ED’s counsel.
The Tribunal then ordered a “status quo”, thereby stopping the investigating agency from taking possession of a school in Chennai and a commercial property in Mumbai.
The ED has already attached Naik’s three properties, including these two, but the judge said the agency cannot now proceed with the physical possession. The matter is adjourned by the Tribunal to hear at length about the validity of the attachment proceedings.
Naik in his appeal stated that he was not even served notices before properties were attached and that the chargesheet made out no such offence that warranted confiscation of his properties.