New Delhi: 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.
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 three accused were arrested in May last year in connection with the riots in north east Delhi.
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 by admitting them to regular bail.
The high court directed Pinjra Tod group 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.
It directed them to furnish a personal bond of Rs 50,000 each along with two sureties of the like amount.
The three accused shall not indulge in any unlawful activities and shall reside at the address as mentioned in prison records, the high court said.
Communal clashes had broken out in north east Delhi on February 24 last year after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.
Tanha had challenged a trial court's October 26, 2020 order dismissing his bail application on grounds that he allegedly played an active role in the entire conspiracy with reasonable grounds for believing the allegations to be prima facie true.
Narwal and Kalita had challenged the trial court's January 28 order dismissed their bail pleas, saying the allegations against them were prima facie true and provisions of anti-terror law have been rightly invoked in the present case.
They had had filed their appeals challenging a trial court's order dismissing their bail pleas in a Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) case related to the riots.