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Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, Asif Iqbal Tanha Released From Tihar Jail After Delhi HC’s Bail Order

Student activists Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha have been released from Tihar Jail after the Delhi High Court granted them bail on 15th June  in the case related to Delhi riots conspiracy

By: Darshana Pagare ILS, Pune

The Delhi Police had stated that the outstation permanent addresses of student activists need to be verified for the purpose of their release pursuant to the Delhi High Court orders granting them bail.

The “Outstation permanent address” verification of all accused persons is pending and could not be completed due to paucity of time”, the Delhi Police said in the application filed before the Court.

The Delhi Police also sought directions to the UIDAI to verify the Aadhar card details of the sureties. The development came after a Delhi Court issued orders for their immediate release after observing that Delhi Police’s argument saying that more time was needed to verify the addresses of the accused and their sureties, cannot be a plausible reason for keeping them imprisoned. 

Additional Sessions Judge  remarked that “I observe that at least verification process qua sureties should have been filed, by all sureties of residents in Delhi. Apropos the reason forwarded by IO that verification qua accused’s permanent address would need time, I would say that this by itself cannot be a plausible reason for the accused to be kept imprisoned till the time such reports are filed.”

Observing that it will be expedient in the interest of justice, the Court accordingly ordered thus “The accused is directed to be released forthwith as per Orders of Delhi High Court. Since the verification of the permanent address of the accused shall require sometime, let the Report to this effect be filed on or before 23.06.2021 with the concerned court.” The release warrant should be immediately prepared and be sent to the Jail Superintendent via email, the Court had ordered.

Meanwhile, the activists had approached the Delhi High Court,  aggrieved with the Trial Court deferring their release despite the bail granted. A division bench of Justices which granted bail observed that the trial court should consider the matter expeditiously and asked the parties to appear before the trial court. The High Court will consider the matter the very same Day.

The Trial Court had reserved the orders on the release of Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha. The pronouncement was deferred to next date  citing “heavy board” after the Delhi Police had moved an application seeking some more time in conducting the verification of their sureties.

The High Court had granted bail to Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha after observing that offences under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) are not made out prima facie against them in the Delhi riots conspiracy case.

The Delhi Police had filed chargesheet against them alleging that the protests organized by them against the Citizenship Amendment Act from December 2019 were part of a “larger conspiracy” behind the North East Delhi communal riots which took place in the last week of February 2020.

While granting bail to Natasha Narwal, the High Court observed “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 Granted right to protest and terror activity has become somewhat blurred. If this mindset gains traction, it would be a sad day for democracy.”  The High Court has undertaken a factual examination of the allegations to ascertain if prima facie case is made out against them for the purposes of Section 43D(5) of UAPA.

A High Court bench, after a preliminary analysis of the chargesheet, observed that the allegations do not prima facie constitute the alleged UAPA offences relating to terrorist activities(Sections 15,17 and 18).

It was observed that “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.”

These three student leaders have spent over a period of one year in Tihar jail, even amid the two deadly waves of the COVID pandemic. The benefit of interim bail on account of the pandemic was not available to them as they were accused under the UAPA. After Natasha Narwal lost her father Mahavir Narwal to COVID last month, the High Court had granted her interim bail for three weeks to perform the funeral rites.

In a related development, the Delhi Police on Wednesday approached the Supreme Court challenging the aforesaid bail orders.

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