'State anxious to suppress dissent': Delhi HC grants bail to Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita in UAPA case
The court directed Narwal, Kalita and Tanha to surrender their passports and not to offer any inducement to prosecution witnesses
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday granted bail to JNU students Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita and Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha, who were arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with a case related to larger conspiracy in the north east Delhi riots in February last year.
A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup Jairam Bhambhani set aside the trial court's orders denying bail to the three accused and allowed their appeals.
“While the presence of the appellant for purposes of trial must be secured, there is no material or basis to suspect; nor is there any reasonable apprehension that the appellant will tamper with evidence or intimidate witnesses,” the court said, while granting bail to Tanha.
The high court directed Pinjra Tod activists Narwal and Kalita and Tanha to surrender their passports and not to offer any inducement to prosecution witnesses or tamper with the evidence in the case.
The court also voiced concern over the allegations against the activists.
Why were the activists sent to jail?
The three accused were arrested in May last year in connection with the riots in north east Delhi. Their names first came in an FIR filed on 24 February by Delhi Police from the Jaffrabad protest site under Sections 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public function), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 283 (danger or obstruction in public way or line of navigation), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 109 (punishment of abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment), 147 (rioting) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
Communal clashes had broken out in north east Delhi on 24 February last year after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.
While Kalita and Narwal were granted bail on 24 May, they were re-arrested at the same time under another FIR after under charges of Arms Act and Murder from the Indian Penal Code. The police granted Kalita and Narwal two day police custody, which was extended for another two days.
Narwal was granted interim bail last month when her father passed away due to COVID-19.
Jamia Millia Islamia University student Tanha had challenged a trial court's October 2020 order dismissing his bail application on the ground that he allegedly played an active role in the entire conspiracy. He was recently granted a two-week interim custody bail to attend his backlog examinations at the university.
What is Pinjra Tod?
Pinjra Tod was started as a movement in 2015 against the regressive rules being followed by hostels and paying guest accommodations for women. Literally translating to Break the Cage, Pinja Tod describes itself as "a collective effort by women students to discuss, debate, share, mobilise and collectivise struggles against restrictive and regressive, regulations and moral policing by hostels, paying guest accommodations and university authorities in India"
By 2016, women across educational institutions joined Pinjra Tod to speak about their suppression, question curfew hours, and challenge rules like ban on wearing shorts in some hostels.
With inputs from PTI
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