The Supreme Court of India on Friday stayed the Delhi High Court order of granting bail to Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Watali, arrested by the NIA in the ‘alleged terror funding case’.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud considered the submissions of National Investigation Agency (NIA) that the “release of Watali would cause grave harm to the ongoing probe in the funding case.”
The NIA was represented by Attorney General K K Venugopal and Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh.
The bench has now fixed the plea of NIA filed against the Delhi High Court verdict for hearing on September 26 and asked the accused businessman to file his response in the meantime.
The Delhi High Court while granting bail to Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Ahmad Watali on Thursday in the alleged ‘terror funding’ case has said that ‘there are no reasonable grounds to form an opinion at this stage that the accusations against the appellant under the UAPA are prima facie true’.
“The court is also not satisfied at this stage that there is prima facie material to show the involvement of the appellant in any criminal conspiracy with the other accused justifying the accusations for the offences under Section 120-B IPC or Section 121, 121-A, 124-A IPC. The duty of the court at this stage is not to weigh the evidence meticulously but to arrive at a finding on the basis of broad possibilities,” the Court said.
Watali was arrested on August 17, 2017, and was charge-sheeted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on January 18 along with Pakistan-based Hafiz Saeed, Syed Salahuddin, seven Kashmiri pro-freedom leaders and others in the case of alleged terror funding in the Kashmir Valley.
They were charge-sheeted under stringent anti-terror laws for “hatching conspiracy with Saeed and Salahuddin to wage a war against India” to secede Jammu and Kashmir.
The resistance leaders, who were arrested on July 24, 2017, are Altaf Ahmad Shah, Shahid-ul-Islam, Ayaz Akbar, Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate, Nayeem Khan, Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal and Bashir Ahmad Bhat alias Peer Saifullah.
Another, Kashmiri pro-freedom leader, Shabir Shah is also languishing in Tihar jail, Delhi after he was arrested by ED on July 25, 2017.
Two sons of Salahudin, Syed Shahid and Syed Shakeel are also in Tihar jail after they were arrested on same kinds of charges.
After his arrest, Watali had claimed to have played a key role in getting the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend Narendra Modi’s oath ceremony as Prime Minister in 2014.
Moreover, while being questioned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) over his alleged role in organising funds for militants and resistance leaders in the Valley, has told investigators that he was part of an effort by the Hurriyat to act as mediator between India and Pakistan during the Kargil war.
The offer, made during the peak of the conflict in 1999, was rejected by Pakistan, he claimed.