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‘No actual breach of peace’: Gujarat HC grants bail to woman held for sedition

Considering her bail plea, the court took into account that no “actual violence or breach of peace” occurred at any time and more particularly during her presence in Gujarat, and the FIR in question was registered on account of “other similar offences registered in Jharkhand”.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
Updated: August 4, 2021 5:17:45 am
Babita Kachhap, who hails from Ran-chi in Jharkhand, was arrested from Mahisagar district in July last year in an FIR lodged by ATS police station in Ahmedabad for waging a war against state.

More than a year after three activists from Jharkhand were arrested on sedition charges from different districts in Gujarat over an alleged campaign to support the “Pathalgadi movement”, the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday granted bail to one of the accused — Babita Kachhap.

Considering her bail plea, the court took into account that no “actual violence or breach of peace” occurred at any time and more particularly during her presence in Gujarat, and the FIR in question was registered on account of “other similar offences registered in Jharkhand”. It also took note that the state did not respond to the fact that the Jhar-khand FIRs now stand withdrawn.

Kachhap, who hails from Ran-chi in Jharkhand, was arrested from Mahisagar district in July last year in an FIR lodged by ATS police station in Ahmedabad for waging a war against state (IPC section 121 (A)), sedition (IPC section 124 (A)) and wanton vilification upon religion (IPC section 153 (A)). She moved the Gujarat HC in January this year seeking regular bail.

As per the prosecution’s case, Kachhap and the other two co-accused, who already had offences pertaining to “anti-national activities, abduction, murder, rape, waging war against India” registered against them at various police stations in Jharkhand, had entered Gujarat in tribal areas of Kevadiya, Dahod, Chhota Udepur and Vyara (Tapi) to allegedly instigate “the followers of Sati-Pati Cult of tribal to take violent means by wrong interpretation of the Fifth Schedule of Constitution of India and wage war against India”.

However, Kachhap’s advocate submitted before the court that the prosecution has failed to prove the offences as alleged in the Gujarat FIR and so far as the Jharkhand FIRs are involved in relation to the Pathalgadi movement, the cases now stand withdrawn owing to a Jharkhand government order.

Kachhap submitted that the chargesheet indicated that the prosecution relied upon “Facebook posts and criticism of policy of the Government on non-implementation of constitutional provisions for the benefit of scheduled tribes”, and the same cannot be considered as sedition under Section 124(A) of the IPC.

To constitute an offence under Section 124 (A) of the IPC, there must be actual incitement to violence and mere involvement in the Pathalgadi movement cannot amount to commission of offence, Kachhap submitted before the court of Justice SH Vora.

It was the case of the prosecution that the co-accused persons “made people to fight on the basis of caste and class by instigating the people and they have been caught with documents and mobile phones containing incriminating material in their possession…” However the court ruled that the material referred to were available on the internet and no incriminating material is pointed out to by the state.

The court’s order while granting bail, observed, “A bare perusal of the statements of witnesses…do not indicate that on account of raising voice by the applicant (Kachhap) in the line of her interpretation of Fifth Schedule, there is any overt act or any response from anyone in public and therefore, presence of Mens Rea (criminal intent) which is essential element to make out an offence under Sections 124(A) and 153(A) of IPC is not available on record… (The prosecution) could not point out single events to show that any disturbance whatsoever was caused or has been caused or public in general was affected in their normal activities on account of her Pathalgadi movement as alleged in the FIR and more particularly in certain specific areas of State of Gujarat.”

Kachhap has been directed to execute a bond of Rs 20,000 for her release while imposing the condition that she cannot leave India without prior permission from the sessions judge.

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