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Why it won’t be easy for India to get Zakir Naik extradited from Malaysia

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Absence of Interpol red corner notice against Muslim preacher a major hurdle; Malaysian PM reluctant to consider India’s extradition request.

New Delhi: Controversial preacher Zakir Naik’s extradition from Malaysia is hanging in the balance with Kuala Lumpur refusing to consider India’s request for the same.

Earlier this month, the external affairs ministry had given a statement saying that Malaysia was actively reviewing India’s extradition request. However, a week later Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that he will not give in to India’s demand to deport Naik without looking into all factors, making sure that the person concerned does not become a victim.

Although India has an extradition treaty with Malaysia, getting Naik back is going to be a long fight for the agencies as he has been granted a permanent resident status by the Malaysian government.

In addition, NIA is still struggling to get a red corner notice issued against Naik by Interpol, a request that has been pending for the past seven months and is a prerequisite of the extradition process to start.

Cases against Naik

Naik, a Muslim preacher, is considered to be an influential Wahhabi ideologue. He is also the founder of Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and Peace TV channel.

He is facing a multi-agency probe in India after Bangladesh said the Islamic preacher’s sermons on Peace TV incited the attack on a Dhaka café in which 22 people were killed in 2016.

India’s home ministry had in November 2016 banned IRF under relevant sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Naik then moved the Delhi High Court challenging the Centre’s decision to ban the organisation, but a single-judge bench upheld the decision dismissing IRF’s plea.

Following the ban, NIA registered a suo motu case alleging that Zakir and his associates have been promoting enmity and hatred between different religious groups in India through his public speeches and lectures on various platforms, and inciting Muslim youths and terrorists in India and abroad to commit unlawful activities and terrorist acts.

Subsequently, NIA teams also conducted raids at 12 premises connected to IRF and seized incriminating documents, electronic storage devices and about Rs 12 lakh in cash.

The recovered documents relate to various activities, including financial transactions and property details of Zakir Naik and IRF.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had in December 2016 registered a case against Naik and other members of IRF under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). According to ED, money was being generated by Naik through dissemination of hate speeches, creating communal disharmony in the country and was then being laundered by the accused.

After the case was registered, the agency scanned banking transactions and other financial documents of IRF and had attached a school building in Chennai and a godown.

The agency, however, got a setback after a PMLA tribunal restrained them from taking possession of immovable assets attached in connection with the case, and posed several queries on the agency’s action in the case.

Offences he has been charged under

Naik, who is wanted in India, has not been charged with sedition though. He has been accused of promoting enmity between communities on the grounds of religion, race, language, through his inflammatory speeches. He has also been booked under Section 10 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, for being an active member the banned outfit, IRF.

In a separate case registered by NIA, Naik has been charged under IPC sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language  and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs), 298 ( uttering words, etc, with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person) and 505 (2) (statements conducing to public mischief).

Naik has not returned to India since he left on 13 May 2016. On 14 July, the RPO Mumbai revoked his Indian passport, following a request from NIA.

Naik’s lawyer has, however, claimed that he was given permanent residency by Malaysian government long before his passport was cancelled by Indian government.

Extradition hurdles

Despite India’s extradition treaty with Malaysia, getting Naik back will not be an easy task since he has been granted a permanent resident status by Malaysian government.

Another hurdle is the lack of red corner notice — an international warrant — against Naik. NIA had moved an application for issuance of RCN in May last year but it was rejected by the Interpol on the ground that when the request was made through CBI, there was no chargesheet filed in any court in India against Naik.

A chargesheet was subsequently filed in October and another request to Interpol was made by NIA in December.

Usually an RCN is issued within three weeks, however, in Naik’s case the request has been lying with them for the past seven months.

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  1. There is no legal substance in many allegations against Zakir Naik. It is not legal offence to be illogical or dogmatic i am doubtful about the allegations of economic offences. The officials were under great pressure to make some charges against him. Initially investigators ruled out anything illegal in his speeches. I read many speeches but though reactionary, I never noticed incitement to violence or communal hate. When his NGO licence was routinely renewed, the concerned officials were suspended giving a message to the bureaucracy and it obliged.

  2. 1. It is obvious that the Malaysian government wishes to give all protection to Zakir Naik as if he is a Malaysian citizen. If Zakir Naik’s supports and fans in Malaysia and other countries wish to carry on their activities, no one can stop them. 2. What the government of India can of course do is to ensure that Zakir Naik does not indulge in anti-India activities. 3. We can let Zakir Naik live peacefully in Malaysia. If he has some associates and sympathisers in India and if they are indulging in anti-India activities, we have to deal firmly with those associates and sympathisers. I believe, once activities of Naik’s Indian accomplices are brought under continuous scrutiny, Naik can do harm to our country; let him continue his business of touring Islamic countries and give his famous lectures to spread message of Islam.

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