A Delhi court granted bail to Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad on Wednesday in the case filed against him for an incident of violence during an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest in the National Capital's Daryaganj on 20 December.
Sessions judge Kamini Lau, while granting the bail, imposed a few conditions on Azad. The Bhim Army chief has been barred from holding any protest or dharna till voting in Delhi Assembly elections concludes on 8 February. He has also been told to restrain from visiting the Shaheen Bagh protest, India Today reported. The judge instructed Azad to leave Delhi for four weeks and to stay put in Saharanpur for that period. The court told Azad to record his presence with the Saharanpur Police station in Uttar Pradesh every Saturday.
— Nilashish Chaudhary (@nielspeak) January 15, 2020
On the second day of the bail petition hearing, Lau took up the case where she had left off on Tuesday. Calling Delhi Police's investigation and arrests made during anti-CAA protests as "discriminatory", Lau noted that the speech made by Azad at the Jama Masjid during the protest wasn't 'incendiary'.
Lau asked the prosecutor whether the Delhi Police had an estimation of the damage after a protest against the contentious law took a violent turn, resulting in arson at the Daryaganj area of the National Capital. The prosecutor said that the process of assessment of the damage was underway. In response, Lau asked, "Are you saying that there is no evidence of Chandra Shekhar Azad delivering an 'inciting speech'?"
Lau asked Azad's lawyer Mahmood Pracha to read some of the tweets written by the Bhim Army chief which have been termed "most incriminating".
"Ambedkar said don't think I've died after I am dead, I will be alive till the Constitution is alive," Pracha read and told the judge that this tweet "incited" people to uphold the Constitution, Live Law reported. However, when Pracha cited another tweet which said, "When Modi is scared he puts the cops forward," the judge said that "this was problematic".
In regard to another tweet, which compared Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) followers with Ambedkarites, Lau noted that the mention of the RSS "could be" inciting. To this, Pracha said that drone surveillance of the protest at Jama Masjid will "establish that there was no violence", Bar and Bench reported.
जो हिंसा कर रहें है वो हमारा नही है। हमारा शांतिपूर्वक प्रोटेस्ट ऐतिहासिक जामा मस्जिद पर चल रहा है। अम्बेडकरवादी हिंसा नही करते है। जो हिँसा कर रहे है वो आरएसएस के लोग है हमारे नही। मैं जामा मस्जिद पर ही हूँ और यही रहुँगा। हिंसा करने वाले हमारे आंदोलन को कमजोर करना चाहते है।
— Chandra Shekhar Aazad (@BhimArmyChief) December 20, 2019
On Wednesday, the prosecution began with informing the court about the other cases that are pending against Azad, submitting that previous involvement in crimes is a "paramount consideration in deciding on a bail application", Live Law reported. The prosecutor also quoted a judgment of the Supreme Court in this regard.
However, when the prosecutor further submitted the terms of conditions to organise rallies or dharnas, Lau said that when there is no permission for the same, the issue of compliance with or disobeying the terms doesn't arise. "It is anyway a bailable offence," Lau noted, adding, "Terms and conditions apply when you give permission (for protest). If you don't give permission, terms and conditions don't matter. In some cases you pick up people, in others, you don't. This is discrimination."
The prosecutor also said that Azad had written an email seeking permission for the dharna at Jama Masjid, and that it had not been granted. "Of course you will not allow. If there is something happens, you don't want it falling on your shoulders."
Further, the judge asked to hear the offences filed against Azad under the IT Act, reportedly for the "inciting" posts. Pracha read the posts on Twitter that lauded BR Ambedkar and another through which he accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "pushing the police forward whenever there was a threat".
मैं यहाँ जामा मस्जिद की सीढ़ियों पर मोदी सरकार को यह बताने के लिए बैठा हूँ कि मोदी जी हम आपको संविधान की हत्या नही करने देंगे। यह देश हमारा है और इसको बचाने की लड़ाई हम आखिरी दम तक लड़ेंगे।
— Chandra Shekhar Aazad (@BhimArmyChief) December 20, 2019
In response to the post about Modi, Lau was quoted by Bar and Bench as saying, "We have to respect our officers.. Prime Minister is an institution."
She also reiterated that Section 144 of the CrPC, which puts restrictions on public movement, cannot be invoked repeatedly. She added, "We are all fighting for our rights but we forget our duties.. we block roads, we destroy property, it's our State no... These laws have to be read in accordance with the Constitution,"
Regarding the use of Section 144, Lau on Tuesday slammed the prosecutor after they said that permission was a prerequisite for protests and said, "What permission? The Supreme Court has said repeated use of Section 144 is abuse. I have seen many people, many such cases, where protests happened even outside Parliament. Some of those people are now senior politicians, chief ministers."
Lau also stressed on the need to push for dialogue before resorting to protests over an issue. "It's time to take care of the convenience of others. Protests come last. Dialogue comes first," Lau was quoted as saying by Bar and Bench. Asserting that anarchy cannot be allowed, she also added that dialogue should take place between small groups.
"You exercise your constitutional right then, we'll see if it's legal or illegal," Lau concluded.
Lau also sought an assurance from Azad's counsel that if the Bhim Army chief is granted bail, a similar situation of violence won't take place. "You are a good orator, you are a crowd puller, you will have all kinds of people joining you. How do you ensure that in case he is released, something similar will not happen?" she said. "When the damage to public property is an outcome of a protest called by you, you have to be responsible."
Pracha clarified that the protesters who were marching from Seelampur to Jantar Mantar was not on Azad's call, but a "peoples' call". "My call was to march from Jama Masjid to Jantar Mantar. My people had gone back (before Seelampur march)," the counsel submitted.
By way of assurance, Azad's counsel said that a video of every rally of his can be provided if required. "I am only reading and making speeches. I can videograph everything if they want me to, every time I go," the counsel said. Fifteen other people arrested in the case were granted bail by the court on 9 January.
Azad sought bail in a local Delhi court on Monday claiming that police invoked "boilerplate" charges against him and arrested him "mechanically" without following the due process of law. Azad, who was kept in judicial custody for almost a month, claimed that he was falsely implicated as the allegations levelled against him in the FIR were not only "ill founded", also "improbable".
In a scathing critique, Lau, who was hearing his bail plea on Tuesday, slammed the Delhi Police for the investigation and arrests made during the anti-CAA protests. "You are behaving as if Jama Masjid is Pakistan," judge Kamini Lau told the Delhi Police over its action against protesters agitating against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act. Lau further questioned the "objectionable statements" on the basis of which the Delhi Police made the arrests. "Where is the illegality? Tell me about the law. What has investigation shown?" the judge asked.
Judge Lau was in news in 2017 after a bench of Justice Valmiki J Mehta and Justice Indermeet Kaur of the Delhi High Court initiated criminal contempt charges against her after she made "judicial improper remarks" against a sitting Delhi High Court judge. Lau was additional district judge in 2017. Additional District Judge at Tis Hazari, judge Lau had written four applications to the high court, asking the court to delete certain adverse remarks and observations made by the judge of the Delhi High Court against her after matters dealt by her was brought before the higher court. However, the two judge bench of the Delhi High Court considering those applications noted that the remarks made by the judge of the high court were like judicial comments and hence cannot be omitted. But the court took strong offence to the allegations and language used by Lau.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Jan 15, 2020 19:37:56 IST