Why a J&K Court Struck Down a DM’s Order Freezing Jamaat-e-Islami Leader's Account

The Centre in 2019 banned Jamaat-e-Islami under the UAPA. But the court said that when the DM had passed the order, the tribunal appointed under section 4 of the UAPA hadn't yet confirmed JeI as 'unlawful'.

Srinagar: A special NIA court in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has struck down a 2019 order passed by the district magistrate (DM) of Kishtwar, freezing the account of a Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) leader.

The DM had passed the order soon after the Union government banned the organisation under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), charging it of “supporting extremism and militancy in J&K and elsewhere”.

The Union government had on February 28, 2019, issued a notification under section 3 of the UAPA, stating that the JeI is an “unlawful organisation” and the ban has been invoked with “immediate effect”. The “immediate effect” clause overrode the time lag involved in forming a tribunal and in adjudicating the government’s decision under section 4 of the UAPA.

Following the ban, the DM had passed orders for registration of a first information report (FIR) against JeI leaders and freezing of some of their bank accounts, including the one in the name of Abdul Majeed Sheikh, on March 1 and March 6, respectively. Sheikh was district head of JeI when the organisation was banned.

The court, while hearing a plea by Sheikh seeking to release his bank account, on September 30, directed the authorities to unfreeze it, saying that the DM had passed the orders in a lot of “haste”. The judge also said that no objectionable entry was found in Sheikh’s bank account.

It also observed that when the DM had passed the above orders, the tribunal appointed under section 4 of the UAPA hadn’t confirmed JeI as “unlawful”, and until the said confirmation, the notification issued by the Union government had no relevance.

“But it seems that district magistrate Kishtwar in a hurriedly manner immediately on the very next day i.e. on March 1, 2019 had passed the order, directing the police authorities to seize and seal all movable/immovable properties, bank accounts and educational institutions of the Jamaat-e-lslami (sic),” the judge observed.

On September 2, 2019, a tribunal headed by a Delhi high court judge under UAPA confirmed the Union government’s decision to impose a ban on the JeI (J&K), for five years for its active support to terror and secessionist activities in the country.

The DM’s order and the police FIR claim that JeI leaders have neither resigned from their portfolios in the organisation nor stopped their activities, and this constitutes an offence under the UAPA.

Advocate Faheem Shokat Butt, who appeared on Sheikh’s behalf, told The Wire that the court made the observations that the registration of the FIR and freezing of the bank account is “without proper application of mind”.

“The association was banned on February 28, 2019 and the FIR was registered on the next day i.e. March 1. In the FIR, it has been stated that despite the ban, the office bearers continued their activities. What activities would they have carried out overnight?” he asked.

Also read: In J&K, Jamaat-e-Islami Has Been Restricted for 50 Years – Along With the RSS

History of Jamaat-e-Islami

The JeI was founded by renowned theologian and ideologue Abul A’la Maududi in 1941 to promote Islamic teachings, as well as to achieve socio-structural changes in the society. After the Partition, the group split into Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.

In 1952, following differences with parent body Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, over political ideology and the Kashmir issue, JeI (J&K) came into existence.

JeI participated in electoral politics for the first time in 1969 when it sponsored some candidates in the panchayat polls which are held on a non-party basis.

In 1972, the organisation took part in the assembly polls for the first time and won five seats. In the 1977 polls, its tally was reduced to one seat. It was an important constituent of the Muslim United Front (MUF), a conglomerate of political, religious and social groups which took on the National Conference-Congress alliance during 1987 polls.

The MUF won four seats, amid allegations of mass rigging during the polls swept by the National Conference-Congress alliance.

The rigging of elections proved to be the catalyst for the birth of militancy in J&K in 1989.

Like some other groups, the organisation stayed away from electoral politics from 1987 onwards, and was an important constituent of the Hurriyat from its inception in 1993 till 2003, when the amalgam split into two groups.

The organisation was banned twice in the past, first in 1975 by the Indira Gandhi government on recommendations of the Sheikh Abdullah-led state government. The ban was lifted in 1977.

It was again banned in 1990 under the Jammu & Kashmir Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983.