The Delhi Police on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court against the order granting bail to student activists Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal and Asif Iqbal Tanha, reported Bar and Bench.
The special leave petition or appeal was filed against Tuesday’s verdict delivered by Delhi High Court judges Siddharth Mridul and Anup J Bhambhani.
All the three activists, who have been in custody since May 2020, were yet to be released from prison despite getting bail in other cases related to the Northeast Delhi violence.
Kalita and Narwal filed a petition before a trial court, seeking immediate release from Tihar Jail, Live Law reported. The Delhi Police sought three days time to verify sureties and addresses of the accused.
Additional Sessions Judge Ravinder Bedi reserved the order after a back-and-forth between the lawyers representing the activists, the investigating officer and special public prosecutor, NDTV reported.
The special public prosecutor, who was specially summoned for the hearing, first said that he was not aware of the police’s petition for more time to verify details. “The accused have given permanent address as Jharkhand, Assam and Haryana,” he said later. “It has to be verified...[there is] paucity of time to complete verification.”
The investigating officer, on the other hand, said that the authorities will have to go to the banks to verify all the bail bonds.
At this point, the activists pointed out that all of them are residents of Delhi and arrested from the city. “Charge sheet lists address as Delhi,” their counsel said. “Arrest memo shows Delhi address. Parents’ address [hometowns] isn’t our address here. As adults we rent a place and live in Delhi.”
The lawyer added that the High Court order clearly stated that the activists will have to be released within 24 hours once they submit bail bond. “We have done our work,” the counsel said. “Can’t be in jail because police haven’t done their work.”
During the hearing, the judge also abruptly removed all reporters from attending the proceedings via the virtual link.
A senior officer of the prisons department told The Hindu that all three of them will be allowed to walk out from jail on bail once they receive the release orders.
The case for which the three got bail on Tuesday pertains to the Delhi Police allegations that they were part of a “larger conspiracy” in the violence that followed protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act last year. The three activists were charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Kalita and Narwal are members of women’s rights group Pinjra Tod, while Tanha is a student from Jamia Millia Islamia university in Delhi.
While passing the bail order, a division bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup J Bhambhani criticised the government’s actions in “suppressing dissent”.
“...It seems, that in its anxiety to suppress dissent, in the mind of the state, the line between the constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and terrorist activity seems to be getting somewhat blurred,” the court said in its order. “If this mindset gains traction, it would be a sad day for democracy.”
The court also mentioned that actions like making inflammatory speeches and organising chakka jams, or road blockades, are not uncommon when there is “widespread opposition to governmental or parliamentary actions”.
The court has asked Narwal, Kalita and Tanha to furnish a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and two local sureties, as bail conditions. They have also been asked to surrender their passports and not indulge in activities that would hamper the case.
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Delhi violence case
Clashes had broken out between supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing it between February 23 and 26 last year in North East Delhi, killing at least 53 people and injuring hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods. The violence was the worst in Delhi since the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.
The Delhi Police claim that the violence was part of a larger conspiracy to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and was planned by those who organised the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. They also claimed the protestors had secessionist motives and were using “the facade of civil disobedience” to destabilise the government. The police have arrested several activists and students based on these “conspiracy” charges.
Tanha, Kalita and Narwal were named in the main chargesheet filed in the case in September. A supplementary chargesheet was filed in November against activist Umar Khalid and Jawaharlal Nehru University student Sharjeel Imam in the alleged conspiracy behind the communal violence.