Delhi riot case: High Court slams Centre, grants bail to student activists

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday granted bail to Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha, in a Delhi Riots case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

A bench comprising of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup J. Bhambhani held that prima facie, no offence under sections 15, 17 or 18 of the UAPA is made-out on the basis of the material on record in the present case against the three.

Granting bail to Narwal, the court said: “we can discern no specific or particularised allegation, much less any material to bear-out the allegation, that the appellant incited violence, what to talk of committing a terrorist act or a conspiracy or act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act as understood in the UAPA.”

The court noted that it is constrained to express, that 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. “If this mindset gains traction, it would be a sad day for democracy”, said the court.

While granting bail to Tanha, the court said: “Foisting extremely grave and serious penal provisions engrafted in sections 15, 17 and 18 of the UAPA frivolously upon people, would undermine the intent and purpose of the Parliament in enacting a law that is meant to address threats to the very existence of our Nation. Wanton use of serious penal provisions would only trivialise them.”

The court said bail to three was subject to personal bond of Rs 50,000 and two local sureties. And the conditions also include the three surrendering their passports and not indulging in activities, which could hamper the case.

Tanha is a student pursuing graduation at Jamia Millia Islamia. He was arrested in the Delhi riots case under UAPA in May 2020 and has been in continuous custody since then. Narwal and Kalita are PhD scholars at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who are associated with the Pinjra Tod Collective. They have been in custody since May 2020.

The case pertains to Delhi police investigation into the “larger conspiracy”, which led to the riots in February 2020. According to police, the three accused along with other accused persons, conspired to cause disruption, which could lead to disturbance in law and order at an unprecedented scale.

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