The Delhi High Court on Tuesday granted bail to three anti-CAA activists — Asif Iqbal Tanha, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal — held under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in the Delhi riots conspiracy case.
The bail orders are a significant development in the case where Delhi Police have invoked terror charges accusing them of hatching a conspiracy and creating roadblocks during the mass protests against Citizenship Amendment Act in north east Delhi that led to communal riots killing 53 people, majority of them Muslim in February 2020.
The bench of Justices Sidharth Mridul and Anup Jairam Bhambhani while granting bail to the three accused said: “In its anxiety to suppress dissent, in the mind of the State, the line between 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.”
The police investigation into the case and the incarceration of anti-CAA activists has been termed by human rights groups as a way to stifle dissent.
Narwal and Kalita are research scholars at Jawaharlal Nehru University while Tanha is pursuing bachelors at Jamia Millia Islamia.
Granting bail to Narwal, the court said: “We can discern no specific or particular 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.”
In the bail order of Taha, the court while deliberating in detail what legally and constitutionally constitutes terrorism, it said: “There is no allegation in the subject charge-sheet that the anti-CAA protest extended even to the whole of the National Capital Territory of Delhi; and a perusal of the subject charge-sheet shows that the protest and the disruptions it is alleged to have caused were restricted to North-East Delhi. It would therefore be a stretch to say that the protest affected the community at large for it to qualify as an act of terror.”
The court further said, since we are of the view that no offence under sections 15, 17 or 18 UAPA is made-out against the appellant on a prima facie appreciation of the subject charge-sheet and the material collected and cited by the prosecution, the additional limitations and restrictions for grant of bail under section 43D (5) UAPA do not apply; and the court may therefore fall back upon the usual and ordinary considerations for bail under the Cr.P.C.”
The court said that in view of the considerations and discussion, it is inclined to allow the appeal and set aside the order of a special court passed in October last year that had denied bail to Tanha.
The bail has been granted against a bond of Rs 50,000 and two local sureties.