A court in Delhi on Thursday granted bail to Pinjra Tod activist and Jawaharlal Nehru University student Natasha Narwal, who was arrested in connection with the communal violence that broke out in February, Live Law reported. But Narwal will continue to remain in jail as she is under custody in another first information report (59/2020) filed against her under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat noted that the video presented by the prosecution as evidence against Narwal showed her participating in the “unlawful assembly”, but did not show anything to suggest she indulged or incited violence. The FIR in the case – 50/2020 – accused Narwal of instigating people from Jafrabad, where there was an anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protest in February, to join the violence.
The court further observed that Narwal does not pose any flight risk and all the witnesses in the case are either police officers or protected witnesses. The bail was granted on a personal bond of Rs 30,000 with one surety to the like amount. Narwal is currently lodged in Tihar prison in Delhi as an accused under three first information reports that have been registered against her for allegedly fuelling the violence.
During the hearing on Thursday, the Delhi Police opposed Narwal’s bail plea, alleging the student had opened an “office” near the Jafrabad protest site. They claimed that Narwal held meetings at this venue with other accused to discuss their next steps to organise protests and riots. “These meetings were also attended by Umar Khalid, Mehmood Pracha, and Amanatullah Khan, as well,” the Delhi Police argued.
The police also implied that Narwal used her education – the fact that she is a PhD scholar from JNU – and that “she knows the law” to instigate people to get violent and throw stones to defend themselves from getting evicted from the protest site.
The court, however, observed that it was mindful of the fact that there are statements recorded under sections 161 and 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code that accuse Narwal of inciting violence. The bench further observed that co-accused, Devangana Kalita, who is another student activist of the women’s organisation, was granted bail by the Delhi High Court on September 1.
“Prosecution cannot say that till witnesses are examined, accused cannot be released on bail,” the judge observed, according to PTI. “There is no specific allegation of threat to witnesses, who are, in any case, protected and their identity concealed.”
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Kalita and Narwal were arrested on May 23 in connection with a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in North East Delhi’s Jafrabad area in February. A day later, they were granted bail in the matter by a court in Delhi. Immediately after the court’s order, the Delhi Police moved an application to interrogate the two activists and arrested them in a separate case related to the violence.
They were charged with attempt to murder, rioting and criminal conspiracy. Besides this, Narwal and Kalita been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly being part of a “premeditated conspiracy” in the violence. The cases against them are being investigated by the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police.
Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing it between February 23 and 26 in North East Delhi, killing 53 people and injuring hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods.
But in multiple chargesheets, the Delhi Police have claimed that the violence was part of a larger conspiracy to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and was hatched by those who organised the protests against the amended Citizenship Act. They further claimed the protestors had secessionist motives and were using “the façade of civil disobedience” to destabilise the government. The police have arrested several activists and students based on these “conspiracy” charges, with former Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid being the latest.
On September 16, the Delhi Police filed a 17,000-page chargesheet and named 15 persons as accused in the case. Narwal, Kalita, Jamia Millia Islamia students Asif Iqbal Tanha, Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar, United Against Hate co-founder Khalid Saifi and former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan are among the others named by the police. The chargesheet, however, does not name Khalid and Sharjeel Imam.