Delhi court denies ‘default bail’ to three PFI members

 A Delhi court has denied “default bail” to three members of the banned Popular Front of India (PFI), who are accused in a money-laundering case related to alleged terror activities.

Special Judge Shailender Malik dismissed the applications of accused Mohammad Ilias, Mohammad Perwez Ahmed and Abdul Muqeet, seeking default bail in the money-laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), saying he did not find any case made out for the relief.

The accused were arrested on September 22, 2022 and are currently in judicial custody. The ED had filed a prosecution complaint (the federal agency’s equivalent of a chargesheet) against them on November 19, 2022.

The accused submitted that the ED had filed the prosecution complaint without completing its investigation and thereby, they should be granted default bail.

Special Public Prosecutor N K Matta, who appeared in the court on behalf of the ED, submitted that merely because “further investigation” is going on, it cannot be assumed that the agency’s probe regarding the applicants remains incomplete.

The judge, after hearing the submissions, said in an order passed on July 25, “This court, in the facts and circumstances of the case, does not find substance in the submissions on behalf of the accused/applicants, firstly because the complaint has been filed within the statutory period. A perusal of the complaint does not indicate in any manner that its investigation remained incomplete on the facts stated therein.”

The judge added that if at all the ED is carrying on “further investigation”, it is for additional evidence.

“A meaningful reading of the complaint would also show that the investigation of the ED was complete qua the accused/applicants and they have enumerated details of the facts, evidence and documents collected during the investigation. Thus, to my mind, the accused/applicants are not entitled for the claim of default bail,” the court said.

It be noted that “further investigation” does, by itself, mean that the earlier investigation was incomplete, the judge said.

The ED had filed the prosecution complaint against the three accused and the PFI, claiming that Ahmed was the president of the proscribed outfit’s Delhi unit while Ilias was its general secretary and Muqeet the office secretary.

The case relates to the alleged laundering of Rs 120 crore over several years.

The PFI was banned by the Centre in late September last year over its alleged links with terror activities.

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The ED had filed the case based on an FIR lodged by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for alleged terror-related activities punishable under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The agency had alleged that the accused and other members of the organisation indulged in collecting funds by way of donations, “hawala”, banking channels etc., which were being used for unlawful activities and commission of various offences.

The anti-money laundering agency alleged that its probe found bogus cash donations and bank transfers. Funds were alleged to have also been transferred to India from abroad through a clandestine channel under a conspiracy hatched by the office-bearers of the PFI over the years, it said.

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