‘Social media narrative’: Delhi Police moves SC against HC bail to riots accused

New Delhi: Delhi Police have filed an appeal in the Supreme Court challenging the bail granted by Delhi High Court to activists Asif Iqbal Tanha, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal in a case of the “larger conspiracy” related to the northeast Delhi riots last year, in which 53 people were killed and more than 400 injured.

Questioning the approach adopted by High Court, the police said the three judgments granting bail to three students, Tanha, Kalita and Narwal were “without any foundation and appears to be based more on the social media narrative than the evidence gathered and elaborated in the charge sheet”.

“Unfortunately, contrary to the evidence on record and the detailed oral and written submission made/filed, the High Court has decided the case in hand on a pre-conceived and a completely erroneous illusion, as if, the present case was a simply a case of protest by students,” it argued.

The appeal alleged the High Court “has not only conducted a mini-trial but has also recorded perverse finding which are contrary to record, and the arguments made during the hearing of the case to arrive at a finding that case under Sections 15,17 and 18 of the UAPA was prima facie not made out against the accused”.

The police alleged the High Court “completely lost sight of the evidence and statements and it also discarded the evidence, which clearly made out a sinister plot of mass-scale riots being hatched by the three accused along with other co-conspirators”.

Granting bail to three accused, a bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup Jairam Bhambhani had 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.”

Opposing this observation, the police alleged that this is an “unfounded and perverse insinuation” that the present case was registered by the government to suppress dissent.

The High Court held that provisions of the UAPA can only be applied to deal with matters of profound impact on the ‘defence of India’, nothing more and nothing less, but the police sought to counter it as “an irrelevant consideration to grant bail to the accused”. “Secondly, it will have far reaching consequences for cases investigated by NIA and other investigating agencies. The impugned order is thus unsustainable in law and deserves to be stayed,” the police claimed.

The police claimed the High Court, through an “erroneous interpretation”, has watered down the provisions of UAPA which will have wide ramifications and will affect all the cases registered by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) under the provisions of UAPA.

In May 2020, Narwal, Kalita and Tanha, were arrested for their alleged role in the northeast Delhi riots conspiracy case and later, they were booked under the UAPA. While JNU students Narwal and Kalita are in Tihar Jail, Tanha, a Jamia Millia Islamia student, is out on a two-week interim custody bail to take exams.

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