SRINAGAR: A special court designated under the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, Srinagar has dismissed an application filed by People Democratic Party (PDP) youth leader, Waheed Ur Rehman Para seeking permission to travel to the United States of America (USA) to pursue a 3-month Peace Fellowship Programme at YALE University.
The Court noted that Para has been accused of having close links with foreign and local terrorists, as well as of funding, aiding, and supporting terrorist activities and organizations, it said. For these alleged offences, Para has been charged with various provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which are punishable with death and imprisonment for life, it was observed.
Hence, special judge, Sandeep Gandotra held that there are genuine apprehensions that Para may flee India and disrupt the collection of evidence against him.
“Not only the trial of the case will get hampered which is at evidence stage but there are genuine apprehensions of the applicant fleeing from the country and him trying to disrupt the collection of evidence in the USA for which MLAT request has been sent through government of India,” the order said.
On May 25, 2022, Para was granted bail by the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh subject to various conditions. These conditions included that he cannot leave Jammu and Kashmir without the prior permission of the trial court. Further, he was also ordered to surrender his passport before the investigating officer.
In light of these conditions, Para moved the NIA court for permission to travel abroad and the release of his passport citing his selection as Inaugural Peace Fellow of the YALE Peace Fellowship, 2023, which is slated to start in September and end in November this year.
The Public Prosecutor (PP) objected to the application, contending that the Fellowship was a means to impede the ongoing investigation and trial against Para.
The PP also asserted that there was a statutory bar under Section 51 of the UAPA on granting Para permission to travel since his passport is deemed to have been impounded.
The special court rejected the PP’s contention with respect to Section 51, UAPA opining that, as per this provision, the trial court has the discretion to decide how long a passport ought to be impounded for and even to release it, depending on the particular facts and circumstances of the case. However, the Court proceeded to reject Para’s application in light of concerns that the investigation and trial, which is at the evidence stage, against him would get hampered if he were allowed to travel abroad. (Agencies)