Supreme Court Upholds Delhi High Court’s Order Granting Bail To Activists Accused in Delhi Riots

The bench opined that the accused were only leading protests and "the right to protest is not outlawed and cannot be termed as a 'terrorist act' within the meaning of the UAPA".

Delhi high Court Bail
Source: Indian Express

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the Delhi Police’s appeal challenging the order of the Delhi High Court granting bail to Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Iqbal Tanha.

The three were arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention (UAPA) Act after the Delhi Pogrom of 2020. 

The bench, comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Ahsanuddin Amanullah pointed out that the accused have been enlarged on bail for nearly two years and said that there is no reason to keep the matter alive.

In response to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s argument that the High Court’s order should not be treated as precedent, the bench reiterated the same:

“Purpose of interim order was to ensure that interpretation and views on a law should not be enunciated in bail hearing. We make it clear that we have not gone into legal position of law’s statutory interpretation one way or the other”, the bench added.

Justice Kaul also expressed that bail orders should not be prolonged in response to Mehta’s adjournment request on behalf of the Delhi Police. The bench refused to grant adjournment, noting that the matter was adjourned on several occasions. 

The case involved the Delhi Police probe into the violence that broke out in North-east Delhi in February, 2020. As per Delhi Police, Narwhal, Kalita and Tanha were part of a ‘larger conspiracy’ that led to the violence. The police claimed that following the Citizenship Amendment Act, the accused persons planned to create disruption of such an extent that it would lead to disorderliness and disturbance of law and order. Narwhal, Kalita and Tanha were in custody for almost a year.

Read also: Delhi High Court Grants Bail to Asif Iqbal Tanha, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal

In June 2021, the Delhi High court granted bail to the three after finding that the offences under the UAPA were prima facie not made out against the student leaders. Judges Siddharth Mridul and Anup J Bhambhani held that the accused were only leading protests and “the right to protest is not outlawed and cannot be termed as a ‘terrorist act’ within the meaning of the UAPA”.

In response to the state’s attempt to shift blame on the Delhi Progrom onto activists, the High Court said:

“We are 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.

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