New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Tuesday granted bail to Pinjra Tod activists Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, and also to Jamia Milia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha, who were arrested under stringent anti-terror law UAPA in connection with the north-east Delhi riots that took place in February 2020.
The bail order was pronounced by a bench of Justice Siddhartha Mridul and Justice Anup J. Bhambhani.
With today’s order, all three will finally be released on bail, more than a year after they were arrested for their alleged involvement in the riots.
While Kalita was booked in four cases, Narwal had three FIRs registered against her. They already got bail in the other cases.
The UAPA case against the three pertains to a “larger conspiracy” behind the riots being probed by Delhi Police’s Special Cell. The police have claimed the violence that led to the death of 53 people and injured over 500 was not spontaneous but orchestrated.
The riots between 23 and 27 February were allegedly triggered by a clash between the supporters of Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and those opposing it
The local police, the crime branch and the special cell jointly probed the 755 cases registered in connection with the riots. While 697 cases were probed by the local police and 57 by the crime branch, one related to the larger conspiracy was looked into by the special cell.
In February this year, almost a year after the riots took place, the special cell filed its third charge sheet in the case naming 17 people as accused. They included Narwal, Kalita, local politicians Tahir Hussain and Ishrat Jahan, JNU student Sharjeel Imam, and activists Umar Khalid and Khalid Saifi, besides others.
Kalita, Narwal and Tanha had approached the HC early this year, after their bail petitions were dismissed by the trial court, which held the allegations against them as prima facie true.
The HC reserved orders on the bail pleas of Kalita and Narwal on 28 April, and that of Tanha on 19 March.
Charges against the three accused
Tanha was a final year student at Jamia when he was arrested in May 2020, and has been in custody since.
Both Narwal and Kalita were PhD scholars at Jawaharlal Nehru University and are closely associated with Pinjra Tod, a collective of women students and alumni of colleges from across Delhi. The two were first arrested on 23 May over the sit-in protest at Jafrabad metro station against the CAA. Later, they were also arrested in connection the UAPA case.
Before the HC, the Delhi Police had opposed their plea on the ground they were well aware of the acts being carried out during the riots and that it would lead to “disastrous consequences”.
Kalita and Narwal, they alleged, were part of WhatsApp groups and aware of the acts of every conspirator. Therefore, they were equally liable for the violence, the police had submitted.
As members of Pinjra Tod, the two were accused of mobilising women in the north-east area and created a 24/7 protest site at Madina Masjid in Seelampur as part of a conspiracy.
On Tanha’s role, the police said statements of protected witnesses established his links to the riots and that he was part of the premeditated conspiracy behind the incidents.