The Delhi High Court has again dismissed bail plea of Pinjra Tod activist Devangana Kalita in a case related to the communal violence that broke out in February, Live Law reported on Saturday. The court said in its order that the investigation in the case is still pending.
Additional Sessions judge Amitabh Rawat rejected the bail plea of the Jawaharlal Nehru University student on August 28, on the grounds that even though Kalita has the freedom to protest and oppose law, her right is subject to “reasonable restrictions”. Rawat added he had “no hesitation” in believing the accusations against Kalita are prima facie true.
Kalita was arrested in the case in May by the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police and charged with rioting, unlawful assembly and attempt to murder. She has also been booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act) in a separate case for allegedly being part of a “premeditated conspiracy” in the riots.
The High Court said that statements given by protected witnesses in the case have clearly reflected Kalita’s role in planning activities at anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests that led to the violence. “The accused had planned and done chakka-jam resulting in riots as part of the plan,” Rawat said. “The statements clearly point out the role of the accused Devangana as also other co-accused persons and various actions taken by them in pursuance of the conspiracy.”
The judge added that because the case pertains to an alleged conspiracy, the actions of various individuals, organisations and groups interlinked with each other need to be perceived as a whole. “Thus, the statements or acts by the other co-conspirators in furtherance of common object of the conspiracy will be admissible against the present accused Devangana, and the statements and evidence will have to be read in entirety since it is a case of conspiracy,” Rawat said.
The High Court further observed the assertion that the accused herself “physically and directly did not resort to violence as understood in common parlance would not be germane” in the context of various acts committed by different individuals, including Kalita in the alleged commission of riots.
During the hearing, advocate Adit Pujari, appearing for Kalita, told the court that the stringent provisions of bail would not be attracted since there was no conspiracy. He said the UAPA has been wrongly invoked in the case. Pujari argued that expression of dissent was not an offence under the law and Kalita has a “history of resorting to cause-based peaceful expression of dissent”.
However, Rawat said the right to freedom of expression was not absolute. “The said assertion was correct to the extent that freedom of speech and expression under the Constitution of India grants her the power and right to voice her opinion about any legislation and thus, to peacefully protest,” he said.
The court further said in terms of the investigation, the present case was of a “preplanned, multi-layered and deep-rooted conspiracy”. It said that the accused persons blocked the roads and used “other means at preplanned sites”, which incited people and eventually led to the riots in Delhi.
The High Court observed that as per the case, the women’s collective Pinjra Tod was complicit in instigating the violence by holding anti-CAA protests. “Her [Kalita]’s location is also found at protest sites at Jafrabad at the time of protest,” it added. “She was in constant touch with other co-accused persons like Natasha Narwal, Gulfisha, Satoora and other suspected persons.”
Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad opposed the bail plea saying there was adequate material on record to suggest the role of Kalita in the conspiracy and the riots in Delhi. He claimed that during police custody remand, Kalita had disclosed her involvement in the conspiracy of the present case.