‘Is Jama Masjid in Pakistan?’: Judge criticises Delhi Police at Bhim Army chief’s bail hearing
The judge said protests were part of people’s constitutional right, and added that the law does not prohibit people from demonstrating outside religious places.
A judge at Tis Hazari Court in Delhi on Tuesday criticised the public prosecutor who opposed the bail application of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, Live Law reported. Azad was arrested on December 21 on the charges of instigating violence during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Old Delhi’s Daryaganj locality.
The prosecutor, who appeared on behalf of Delhi Police, alleged that Azad had incited violence through his social media posts. However, the judge – Dr Kamini Lau – noted that the posts were about protests and dharna near Jama Masjid to oppose the citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens. “What is wrong with dharna?” she asked. “What is wrong with protesting? It is one’s constitutional right to protest.”
The judge said there was nothing violent about the posts. “Where is the violence?” she asked. What is wrong with any of these posts? Who says you cannot protest? Have you read the Constitution? You are behaving as if Jama Masjid is Pakistan. Even if it was Pakistan, you can go there and protest. Pakistan was a part of undivided India.” She pointed out that the law did not prohibit people from protesting outside religious places.
When the prosecutor said permission was not taken for the protests, the judge said : “What permission? SC has said repeated use of 144 is abuse.” She was referring to the court’s recent observations in the petitions challenging restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir. The judge also said she had seen many people who had protested outside Parliament go on to become political leaders and ministers, ANI reported.
When Azad’s lawyer Mahmood Pracha accused the police of trying to stifle dissent, the public prosecutor claimed there was “drone footage” of Azad giving inflammatory speeches. Pracha dismissed this claim and said Azad was only reading the Constitution.
After the government counsel sought more time to produce other FIRs registered against Azad by Uttar Pradesh Police, the judge adjourned the matter till 2 pm on Wednesday. “In the colonial era the protests were out on the roads,” the judge said before adjourning the hearings. “But your protest can be legal, inside the courts. Inside Parliament, things which should have been said were not said and that is why people are out on the streets. We have full right to express our views but we cannot destroy our country.”
Last week, a court in Delhi had criticised the Tihar Jail authorities for not providing medical treatment to the Bhim Army leader, who suffers from a blood disease. On January 9, the court ordered the jail authorities to shift Azad to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. In his application, moved on January 6, Azad said he can suffer cardiac arrest if he does not receive treatment. The disease “requires continuous checkup from the doctors concerned from AIIMS, who are supervising his treatment for a long time”, added the Bhim Army chief.