The Gauhati High Court on Monday stayed some observations that a district and sessions judge in Assam had made while granting bail to Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani.

Justice Devashish Baruah of the High Court, in his order, said that the observations had no relevance to Mevani’s bail petition. He, however, clarified that his order did not amount to a stay on bail and said that the Assam government was free to challenge the sessions court’s order for that purpose.

On April 29, Barpeta district and sessions judge Aparesh Chakravarty had said that the Gauhati High Court should consider directing the police to reform themselves and take measures to prevent registration of false first information reports. He had said that these measures could include requiring police personnel to wear body cameras and installing close circuit television cameras in police stations and vehicles.

Chakravarty had said that unless such measures are taken, Assam “will become a police state, which the society can ill afford”. The sessions judge added that it had become a “routine phenomenon” for the police to claim that an accused person attempted to escape custody, and then shoot at the person, leading to deaths or injuries.

“...Converting our hard-earned democracy into a police state is simply unthinkable, and if the Assam Police is thinking about the same, the same is perverse thinking,” Chakravarty had remarked in his order.

Justice Baruah, however, on Monday said that the sessions judge made these observations without there being any relevant material on record. He also referred to an observation by the judge in the bail order that the testimony of a woman police officer in an assault case against Mevani showed that the case against the MLA had been manufactured for keeping him in custody for longer.

“These findings are also prima facie beyond the exercise of the jurisdiction of the Sessions Court in a proceeding under Section 439 CrPC [Code of Criminal Procedure] and accordingly, the said observation is also stayed,” the High Court judge said.

During the hearing, Advocate General of Assam Debojit Saikia said that the sessions judge’s observations cast aspersions on the police force and would demoralise them. The high court was closed on Monday, but Saikia took special permission to challenge the order of the district court.

Mevani’s arrest

Mevani was arrested twice in Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Assam between April 20 and April 25. Though the Dalit leader is an Independent MLA, he supports the Congress.

In the first case, he was charged with criminal conspiracy and outraging religious feelings for tweeting against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mevani had said that the prime minister worshipped freedom fighter Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse.

In the second case, he was charged for allegedly assaulting the woman police officer and outraging her modesty. He has received bail in both cases.