Delhi HC dismisses Kashmiri businessman Watali’s bail plea

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The Delhi High Court Tuesday dismissed a plea by Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Shah Watali, arrested by the NIA in connection with a militant funding case, seeking bail on the ground of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watali had approached the high court challenging a trial court’s order which had denied him bail in the case last year but had taken note of his medical condition that he was suffering from various ailments including diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and piles.

The trial court, early this year, had directed that Watali be kept under house arrest at his Gurugram residence till further orders for his medical treatment.

On Tuesday, a bench of Justices Mukta Gupta and Anish Dayal perused the status report filed by the authorities and noted that Watali was being regularly treated and receiving prescribed medicines and that his condition was stable and satisfactory.

As on date, it cannot be said that the COVID-19 situation was still prevalent. The life returning to normalcy would even apply to prisoners who are in custody, the bench said.

While dismissing Watali’s appeal against the trial court order, the bench directed that he be put under house arrest in his Gurugram residence till further orders and that he will be allowed to be taken to hospitals or diagnostic centres for conducting any tests, if recommended.

The high court further said that in case he is admitted to a hospital, the venue of house arrest will be shifted from his residence to the hospital and during that period, he will be allowed to meet only his immediate family members and lawyer.

Subsequent to the conditions mentioned in the order dated January 31, 2022, and the fact that the appellant was in custody in his own home, the appeal challenging the order dated 15 May 2021 declining bail to the appellant is rendered infructuous and is dismissed accordingly,” the bench said.

The NIA arrested Watali in August 2017 for his alleged links to a Jammu and Kashmir militant financing case involving Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed.

The agency had carried out raids on his premises and that of other suspects.

Watali, Hafiz Saeed, Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahudeen and nine others have been accused by the NIA of “conspiring to wage war against the government” and fomenting trouble in the Kashmir valley.

The NIA has said in its charge sheet that the probe was based on scientific and oral evidence, which had “conclusively established that for carrying out all these terrorist and subversive activities, the gang of the accused persons is receiving funds from Pakistani agencies through hawala conduits such as accused Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali and others and also raising funds by generating illegal profits from LoC barter trade by doing under-invoicing and cash-dealings”.

In its charge sheet, the NIA has alleged that Watali received money from accused Syed, ISI of Pakistan, the Pakistan High Commission here, and from a source in Dubai. (PTI)

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