NIA questions couple via WhatsApp

In a first, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) questioned an Indian couple currently in Yemen through the messaging platform WhatsApp. Shirin Shahana and Fasal Musthafa, who allegedly persuaded Hadiya (Akhila Asokan), a homeopathy student from Kerala, to convert to Islam, were recently sent questions by the agency. A senior NIA official said the agency recorded the replies as part of their investigation files. “Since they are not in India, it was impossible to question them. We sent the questions to them on WhatsApp where they replied. It will be treated as evidence under law,” the official said. In 2016, Ms. Hadiya’s father had moved the Kerala High Court alleging that she was radicalised and forcibly married to a Muslim man. The High Court annulled the marriage and her husband Shafin Jahan moved the Supreme Court, which asked the NIA to investigate the case. The apex court restored Ms. Hadiya’s marriage to Mr. Jahan on March 8 last year, but allowed the NIA to continue its investigation into any criminality involved. It asked the agency to steer clear of Ms. Hadiya’s choice to marry Mr. Jahan. The NIA said it had not closed the investigations in the case and it would continue the work. In a status report to the Supreme Court last year, it said the agency had evidence that Ms. Hadiya was brainwashed by the couple who met her at Sathya Sarani, a religious institution affiliated to the Popular Front of India (PFI) in Malappuram district of Kerala. During their investigations, the NIA found that the couple were now based in Yemen where they were pursuing some religious studies. The official said they were unlikely to return to India and their questioning was critical for the ongoing probe. The NIA had also told the Supreme Court that Ms. Hadiya was “brainwashed in difficult academic conditions to embrace Islam” by the couple. Earlier, courts have issued summons through WhatsApp. In 2017, the Bombay High Court for the first time allowed serving of summons through the messaging platform to the defendants in a copyright infringement case as they were evasive.

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