New Delhi: Nearly 23 months after his arrest, the Allahabad High Court Tuesday granted bail to Mohammad Alam who was booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in connection with the Hathras case in 2020. Alam, 30, was the purported driver of the car in which journalist Siddique Kappan and two others were traveling to Hathras following the gangrape of a 20-year-old Dalit girl by four upper caste men.
Alam — along with Kappan, Campus Front of India (CFI) office-bearers Atiqur Rahman, Masood Ahmad, and three others — was arrested on 5 October, 2020. The UP Special Task Force had filed a chargesheet against all seven in April last year, accusing them of ‘sedition’ and allegedly ‘attempting to incite violence’ in the state after the Hathras incident.
While granting bail to Alam, the bench of Justices Ramesh Sinha and Saroj Yadav noted that “no incriminating article” had been found in his possession and no “material could be detected” from Alam’s phone to establish his relations with any terrorist or terror activities. Moreover, the bench also noted that there is “no reasonable ground” to believe that the accusations against Alam are prima facie true.
However, Alam will have to wait a little longer before he can walk out of jail since he is also among those named by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a prosecution complaint filed against four persons under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
“We will soon move for bail in the ED case,” his lawyer, Saifan Sheikh, told ThePrint. The first accused, Rauf Sharif, was granted bail in February 2021.
For Bushra, Alam’s wife, though, the end to their ordeal is finally in sight.
Speaking to ThePrint, she said: “I have got a new life today. My husband has been granted bail under the UAPA. It has been almost 23 months, 688 days. I have prayed every day. Allah has heard my prayers today.”
Married for a little over three years, Bushra and Alam have spent most of that time apart. After Alam’s arrest, she had moved to her parents’ house in Trilokpuri in Delhi from their house in Seemapuri. She had last seen him on 29 June during a hearing.
According to Bushra, Alam didn’t know any of the other accused before the incident, but he has now developed cordial relations with them. “They were sent to jail together. In suffering, people tend to open up to one another,” she said.
Bushra recalled how Alam had told her on 5 October, 2020, that he had got a trip to Hathras. “Those times were really hard due to Covid,” she said. After calling him a number of times and being unable to get through to him that evening, Bushra had panicked. It was only the next day that she received a call telling her he had been arrested.
“I will go to get him. His favourite meal will be ready. Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel”.
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‘No incriminating evidence’
The bench noted that Alam’s case was “distinguished” from Kappan’s as “incriminating material was allegedly recovered from his [Kappan’s] possession. He is a press reporter and laptop and mobile phone recovered from his possession, incriminating articles and video clips etc. were found inter-alia.”
The defence had argued that Alam had only ferried the passengers in his taxi and there were no allegations against him of being associated with any terrorist organistaion, of soliciting any funding, or of any linkages with the PFI or its student body, the Campus Front of India (CFI). Further, it was stated that there was no incriminating evidence recovered from his possession.
According to the prosecution, Alam and the other co-accused were members of an organisation that intended to disrupt the law-and-order situation in Hathras. It was further argued that while his taxi was registered under Ola, the booking wasn’t done via the cab service. The prosecution also stated that Alam had bought the taxi from another person for Rs 2,25,000 just 10 days before the incident and said that he had received the funds from PFI/CFI.
The defence counsel argued that the money was borrowed from his cousin and an affidavit for the same was filed.
“In the present matter the only evidence against the appellant which has been shown at this stage, i.e. after filing of the chargesheet, is that he paid Rs 2,25,000/- as purchase money of car to one Mohd. Aneesh just few days ahead of the incident and he is a relative of Danish who has criminal antecedents and was involved in riots of Delhi over the CAA Protest,” the court observed. The only connection found here was that Danish had been the one to place the call to Alam for the booking.
Justices Sinha and Yadav said that the prosecution “cannot specify the connection of the appellant with Danish of the nature that appellant is associated in any way with him regarding terrorist activities and terrorist funding (sic)”.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)
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