HC grants bail to Delhi riot accused

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on June 15, 2021

The Court said the State is blurring the lines between right to protest and terrorist activity in its “anxiety to suppress dissent”

In a far-reaching judgement, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday underlined the criticality of sound reasoning behind classifying any crime as a terrorist act under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and said that the State is blurring the line between the Constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and terrorist activity.

A division bench comprising Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup J Bhambhani said offences under the UAPA related to riots in North-East Delhi last year are prima facie not made out against student activists Natasha Narwal, Dewangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha. The Court said that the rigour of Section 43D(5) of the UAPA regarding grant of bail is not applied to the accused and they were entitled to bail under the general provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. The HC also underlined that courts must be careful in employing the definitional words and phrases used in section 15 in their absolute, literal sense or use them lightly in a manner that would trivialise the extremely heinous offence of ‘terrorist act’, without understanding how terrorism is different even from conventional, heinous crime.

‘Suppressing dissent’

The Court also observed that UAPA is being used to suppress dissent by the State. “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. In our view therefore, after carefully considering the allegations in charge-sheet along with the material adduced therewith, we are not persuaded to think that prima facie the accusations made against the appellant make out any offence under sections 15, 17 and /or 18 of the UAPA; and therefore the stringent conditionalities contained in section 43D(5) of the UAPA would not apply and the appellant’s bail plea would need to be considered on the general principles of bail enunciated above,” said the Court.

Published on June 15, 2021

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