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Delhi High Court grants bail to five accused in Delhi riots

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The Delhi High Court has granted bail to five persons arrested in connection with the North-East Delhi riots that shook the national capital in February last year.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad on Friday granted bail to Furkan, Mohd Arif, Shadab Ahmad, Suvaleen and Tabassum, who all have been in judicial custody since last year, for allegedly causing the death of Head Constable Ratan Lal, as also causing serious head injuries to the DCP North-East and damaging public property during the protest.

The order

The Bench, while stating that the accused cannot be made to languish behind bars for a longer period of time, noted “Bail jurisprudence attempts to bridge the gap between the personal liberty of an accused and ensuring social security remains intact. It is the intricate balance between securing the personal liberty of an individual and ensuring that this liberty does not lead to an eventual disturbance of public order.

“It is egregious and against the principles enshrined in our Constitution to allow an accused to remain languishing behind bars during the pendency of the trial. The Court, while deciding an application for grant of bail, must traverse this intricate path very carefully and take multiple factors into consideration before arriving at a reasoned order whereby it grants or rejects bail.

“It is the Constitutional duty of the Court to ensure that there is no arbitrary deprivation of personal liberty in the face of excess of state power. Bail is the rule and jail is the exception, and Courts must exercise their jurisdiction to uphold the tenets of personal liberty, subject to rightful regulation of the same by validly enacted legislation,” it added.

Background

An FIR was registered at Police Station Dayalpur on a complaint made by a Constable who was on duty at the Chand Bagh area, the place where the alleged incident happened, during the protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

It was stated that on February 24, 2020, the protestors, carrying sticks, baseball sticks, iron rods and stones, mobilized near the Chand Bagh area at around 01:00 pm and were moving towards the Wazirabad Road. It was further stated that the police officers attempted to convince the crowd to not move forward. However, despite the legal warnings, the crowd did not stop and turned violent. Some people from amongst the crowd started attacking the police officials as well as the passers-by with the weapons that they were carrying.

During the alleged incident, several police officers as also public persons suffered injuries, including the complainant. The ACP Gokalpuri, DCP Shahdara and Head Constable Ratan Lal were also attacked, and as a result, they fell down and suffered grievous head injuries. The injured people were taken to a hospital, wherein Head Constable Ratan Lal succumbed to the injuries.

Senior Counsel Rebecca John representing Shadab Ahmad, submitted that he has been falsely implicated in the case for taking part in peaceful protests against the CAA and volunteering at the protest site. She further submitted that there are loopholes in the investigation conducted by the police and that there was a delay in recording the statements of witnesses in the matter.

Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir, appearing on behalf of Mohd. Arif, contended that the CCTV footage relied upon to prove Arif’s presence at the protest site does not explicitly display him and that the police had mistakenly identified another individual as him.

Advocate Dinesh Kumar Tiwari, appearing on behalf of Furkan, submitted that no incriminating material has been recovered from him or at his instance and that he has been falsely implicated in the case. As regards Suvaleen, Mr. Tiwari submitted that he has been arrested only on the basis of the disclosure statements of other accused and that there exists no clinching evidence which could prove his connection to the incident.

Similarly, Advocate Abdul Gaffar, representing Tabassum, submitted that she has been falsely implicated in the matter on account of her religious identity and for exercising her fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

Per contra, the ASG Mr. SV Raju, while opposing the bail applications, submitted that the absence of an accused from a video does not translate into absence of the accused from the scene of crime. He contended that the offence was preplanned and prior meetings were held so as to motivate the protestors to gather at the scene of crime in order to instigate violence.

Also Read: The Tribunalisation of Justice

He iterated that the overriding considerations in granting bail are, inter alia, the nature and gravity of the circumstances in which the offence is committed. Since the instant case pertains to the offence of murdering a police officer, the matter lies within the four corners of the gravest of grave offences, and therefore, the accused persons are not entitled to bail, he stated.

The Special Public Prosecutor for the State Amit Prasad supported the arguments raised by the ASG.

The Bench observed, “The applicability of Section 149 IPC, specifically read with Section 302, cannot be done on the basis of vague evidence and general allegations. When there is a crowd involved, at the juncture of grant or denial of bail, the Court must hesitate before arriving at the conclusion that every member of the unlawful assembly inhabits a common intention to accomplish the unlawful common object.”

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