Written by: Tanvi Mishra (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
The Delhi High Court granted bail to JNU students Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal and Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha. The three of them were jailed strictly under the anti-terror provisions because they participated in the northeast Delhi riots last year. Pinjra Tod activists Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal were arrested, along with Asif Iqbal Tanha who is a member of the Students’ Islamic Organization of India, in May 2020 for allegedly being a part of a premeditated conspiracy behind the communal violence that broke out in February 2020 against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019.
Article 19 (1) (b) of the Indian constitution grant citizens the right to protest peacefully. The high court stated that protesting without arms is a fundamental right and not terrorist activity. A division bench led by Justice Siddhartha Mridul and Justice Anup J Bhambhani cautioned that it is necessary to differentiate between peacefully protesting and terrorism, otherwise it will be a great threat to the democracy of our country. Living in a democracy means having fundamental rights and a chance to exercise them.
Also, according to the bench, there was a lack of evidence to prove the three of them guilty under UAPA i.e. Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. According to the court, the necessary ingredients under UAPA were not fulfilled to prove the commission of terrorist activity, and just in the anxiety to suppress the dissent, the government blindly ignored the difference between terrorism and the right to protest peacefully.
The court mentioned that even if for the sake of agreement we assume that the line of peaceful protest was crossed but still we cannot term it as a ‘terrorist attack’ or a ‘conspiracy’ and so the bail was granted. One of the factors of granting bail so easily is Covid-19 because of which it has become very difficult to keep the prisoners safe in the jail.
Soon after their release from the Tihar jail, the activists claimed that they will continue with their struggle. As soon as they walked out of jail, they were greeted with slogans like ‘Lal Salaam’, ‘Natasha Zindabad’, and ‘Devangana Zindabad’. There were slogans raised for Mahavir Narwal as well, who was Natasha Narwal’s father and had succumbed to death a month ago due to covid-19. The police not satisfied with the Delhi High Court reached out to the Supreme Court. The solicitor General informed the Supreme Court on how the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 was turned upside down by the High Court to release the three student activists on bail.
The Supreme Court bench led by Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V Ramasubramanium is also not satisfied with the verdict of the Delhi High Court, though it allowed that the three of them will stay on bail and not in the prison. But the SC strictly mentioned that the judgment of the Delhi High Court will not be treated as a precedent by any court in any of the cases further i.e. this judgement will not be taken into consideration to grant bails further.