The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to cancel the Delhi High Court order granting bail to Pinjra Tod activist Devangana Kalita in connection with the communal violence that broke out in the city in February, Live Law reported.
The Delhi High Court had granted the bail to Kalita on September 1, saying that the police did not have any evidence of her making an instigating speech. Kalita, however, remained in jail as she is under custody in another first information report filed against her under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Additional Solicitor General of India SV Raju, who appeared for the Delhi Police, claimed that the High Court did not consider relevant aspects and only relied on irrelevant factors while granting bail. He added that Kalita was an influential person who could influence witnesses or tamper evidence.
A Supreme Court bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah said the court will not interfere with the bail order. “It is only a grant of bail. She is not going to run away,” Bhushan said. He added that the police could ask for a cancellation of bail in case Kalita tried to influence witnesses or tamper evidence.
In response to Raju’s claim that Kalita was influential, Shah asked: “Can that be a reason to deny bail?”
Kalita and another Pinjra Tod member Natasha 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. Narwal and Kalita have also 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.
Narwal was granted bail in one case in September, but is still in jail because of the UAPA case.
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.