The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has refused to share details of a request to Malaysia seeking extradition of controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, being probed in India for alleged terror charges, citing RTI clauses that bars disclosure of information received in confidence from a foreign government, among others.
Responding to an RTI application filed by a PTI correspondent, the ministry said that there are 160 extradition requests from India pending with various foreign countries. To a query seeking details of extradition request made by India and response received from Malaysia, it said the information cannot be provided pursuant to Section 8 (1) (a) (f) and (h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Section (h) bars disclosure of information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders. As per Section (f) of the transparency law, information received in confidence from a foreign government cannot be disclosed. The Section 8 (1) (a) bars information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the state, relation with foreign state or lead to incitement of an offence .
The MEA was asked to provide copy of letter or request made to Malaysia seeking extradition of Naik and also the copy of any communication response from that government.
Naik, who left India in July 2016, is wanted for alleged terror and money laundering charges.
MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had last month said that India’s request to Malaysia to extradite Naik was under active consideration of that country.
India has an extradition treaty with Malaysia.
In January, the MEA made a formal request to Malaysia to deport Naik.
Naik, who is in Malaysia, in a statement published in Malaysian newspapers in July, had thanked Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for examining his case from an “unbiased perspective”.
Mahathir, who had met the radical Indian cleric last month, has made it clear that his government will not easily give in to India’s demand to deport Naik.
“We do not easily follow the demands of others. We must look at all factors before we respond,” Mr. Mahathir was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.
“Otherwise, someone will become a victim,” the prime minister had said.
Mr. Mahathir had also said that Malaysia will not deport Naik back to India, as long as he does not create problems in the country. The previous Malaysian government had granted Naik permanent resident status.
India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), that probes terror cases, had last year filed a charge sheet in a court against Naik for allegedly inciting youth to take up terror activities, giving hate speeches and promoting enmity between communities.
It had first registered a case against Naik under anti-terror laws in 2016.
Naik is also under investigation for issuing hate speeches that reportedly inspired a deadly terror attack on a popular cafe in Dhaka in 2016.
Naik’s Mumbai-based non-government organisation, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), has been declared an unlawful association by the Union Home Ministry.
(With PTI inputs)