PFI Approaches Delhi High Court Challenging 5-Year Ban Imposed On It By Centre

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Popular Front of India (PFI) has approached the High Court challenging the Central Government’s decision to impose a 5-year ban on it and its eight affiliated fronts

The Popular Front of India (PFI) has approached the Delhi High Court to contest the order of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) tribunal, which upheld the five-year ban imposed on the organization by the Central government.

The bench, led by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Mini Pushkarna, directed the organization's counsel to clarify the scope of the petition, emphasizing that the court cannot function as an appellate authority in this matter.

The court, asserting its jurisdiction under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution, highlighted its limited role, focusing on aspects such as natural justice and decision-making.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma objected to certain grounds in the petition, calling for the "sanitization" of pleadings and cautioning against using the platform for "ramble-rousing." Sharma expressed concerns over the petition, characterizing the ban as an "abuse of process," "disgraceful," and "tyrannical."

The court directed the counsel for the petitioner to submit an application for striking off objectionable statements in the pleadings. Sharma also noted that the petition lacked clarity on how it challenged the decision-making process.

The petitioner's counsel informed the court that a previous plea against the ban had been filed before the Supreme Court, which granted the petitioner the liberty to approach the high court.

In its challenge, the PFI contests the UAPA tribunal's March 21 order, affirming the Centre's decision on September 27, 2022, to ban the organization for alleged links with global terrorist organizations, including ISIS, and promoting communal hatred.

The Central government, in its notification, declared the PFI and its associates as an "unlawful association" for a period of five years. The PFI has been accused of having connections with proscribed organizations like SIMI and JMB.

The next hearing on the matter is scheduled for January 8, 2024.

Notably, on September 28, 2022, the Central Government, in the exercise of the powers conferred by Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, declared the Popular Front of India (PFI) and the other eight alleged affiliated fronts as ‘unlawful associations’.

The fronts included: Rehab India Foundation (RIF), Campus Front of India (CFI),  All India Imams Council (AIIC), National Confederation of Human Rights Organization (NCHRO), National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation, and Rehab Foundation, Kerala, were banned for five years.

To trace the history, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had carried out massive operations, and raids in several states to track down people involved in the outfit.

The Gazette by the Ministry of Home Affairs had put forth, “they have been pursuing a secret agenda to radicalize a particular section of the society working towards undermining the concept of democracy and show sheer disrespect towards the constitutional authority and constitutional set up of the country.”

It had further stated that the PFI indulged in such unlawful activities that were prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty, and security of the country and could potentially disturb communal harmony. 

PFIs linkages were established by two proscribed organizations, the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), and Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

It is to be noted that in October 2022, the Central government notified the appointment of Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma as the presiding officer of the UAPA Tribunal to review the ban imposed by it.

Case Title: Popular Front of India v. Union of India