A division bench of Justices Sidharth Mridul and Anup Jairam Bhambhani of the Delhi High Court today allowed bail to student activists Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, and Asif Iqbal Tanha in the main northeast Delhi riots conspiracy case filed under the stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Devangana Kalita is facing trial in four cases and Natasha Narwal in three. They have now been granted bail in all cases. Their lawyer, Adit Pujari said they will be released from jail.
In the mind of the state, the line between the right to protest and terrorist activity seems to be getting somewhat blurred
Granting bail, the bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and A J Bhambhani said, “We are constrained to express, that it seems, that in its anxiety to suppress dissent, in the mind of the State, the line between the constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and terrorist activity seems to be getting somewhat blurred. If this mindset gains traction, it would be a sad day for democracy.”
The Court has held that prima facie, no offense under sections 15, 17, or 18 UAPA is made out on the basis of the material on record in the present case against the three.
The bench directed that a copy of the order be provided to the counsels of the accused persons expeditiously. The court has granted bail to the three accused subject to furnishing Rs 50,000 personal bonds with two local sureties each.
The High Court has directed the accused persons to provide their cell phone numbers to the local SHO, reside in their places of residence as mentioned in their prison records, or inform the SHO in case of change of residence.
Also, the accused persons have been directed not to make contact with any of the prosecution witnesses in the case, or tamper with the evidence. The accused persons have been ordered not to indulge in any unlawful activities while out on bail.
Jamia Millia Islamia University student Tanha had challenged a trial court’s October 26, 2020 order dismissing his bail application on the ground that he allegedly played an active role in the entire conspiracy with reasonable grounds for believing the allegations to be prima facie true.
He was recently granted a two-week interim custody bail to attend his backlog examinations at the university.
In the High Court, the Delhi Police opposed his regular bail stating that the riots were premeditated and a conspiracy was hatched of which Tanha was a part.
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His lawyers had contended he was not present in Delhi during the riots and did not visit any of the protest sites where rioting and violence occurred, and there was no physical evidence connecting Tanha to the riots and no allegations with respect to any funds being received by him for terrorist activities.
Devangana and Natasha’s regular bail was dismissed by a trial court in January stating there were reasonable grounds to believe the accusation against them were prima facie true.
In the High Court, their lawyers stated the investigation in the case was “tainted”.
The case pertains to the Delhi police probe into the “larger conspiracy” that led to the riots in the capital’s North-East area in February 2020.
Delhi Police had opposed the pleas and claimed Narwal and Kalita were well aware of the acts being carried out during the riots and it would lead to consequences that could be disastrous.
As per Delhi Police, following the Citizenship Amendement Act, Tanha, Kalita and Narwal, along with other accused persons, conspired to cause disruption of such an extent and such a magnitude at the national capital that would lead to disorderliness and disturbance of law and order at an unprecedented scale.
The police had stated that they were part of a larger conspiracy to threaten the unity, integrity, and harmony of the country. The court, however, was critical of the prosecution under UAPA.