THE DELHI High Court on Tuesday granted bail to Pinjra Tod activist and Jawaharlal Nehru University student Devangana Kalita in a Northeast Delhi violence case, saying police failed to produce any material to prove that her speech instigated women of any particular community or that she gave a hate speech.
Kalita has been in prison since the last week of May.
In his order, Justice Suresh Kumar Kait said, “In my considered opinion, no prejudice would be caused to the respondent’s investigation by grant of relief to the petitioner, and she would be prevented from suffering further unnecessary harassment, humiliation, and unjustified detention.”
Kalita was granted bail in a case of “criminal conspiracy” for allegedly instigating people to indulge in rioting. The case, registered at the Jafrabad Police Station, was being investigated by the Crime Branch.
In its submission to the High Court, the Delhi Police had referred to Kalita’s presence at Jafrabad Metro station, where people were protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and said, “She was physically present at the spot, i.e. site at 6 Foota Road, under Jafrabad Metro Station, Delhi, since beginning, i.e. at 9:00 PM on 22.02.2020 till the final dispersal of the violent crowd on late evening i.e. at about 7:00 PM on 25.02.2020.”
Police also pointed to a speech made a month earlier, saying, “Video clips of 05.01.2020 show her speech against C.A.A./N.R.C. and her initial speech for mobilization and instigation for the protest. The video link of Twitter also shows presence of the petitioner at the spot on 23.02.2020…”
Kalita, however, will continue to remain behind bars for now as police had registered another case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for alleged “conspiracy” in the Delhi violence. Her bail plea in that case, registered at the Crime Branch Police Station and investigated by the Special Cell, was dismissed by a lower court last week. In two other related cases, she had been granted bail by the lower courts.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who represented her, had earlier argued that she was already being investigated for the alleged conspiracy in the FIR registered by the Crime Branch Special Unit and multiple FIRs cannot be registered for the same offence as per the settled law.
While referring to the inner case diary and a pen drive produced in court, the HC bench on Tuesday said her presence is seen in a “peaceful agitation”, which, it said, is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.
The court also noted that the investigating agency had “failed to produce any material that she in her speech instigated women of (a) particular community or gave hatred speech due to which precious life of a young man has been sacrificed and property damaged”.
The Court further noted, “Admittedly, agitation was going on since long, print and electronic media was present throughout in addition to cameras of police department, but there is no such evidence which establishes that the alleged offence has taken place on the act done by the petitioner, except statements recorded under Section 164 Cr.P.C. much belatedly…”
Kalita has been restrained by the HC bench from leaving the country without permission from the trial court. While Delhi Police had argued that there was danger of her absconding as she is a resident of Assam and her husband is a resident of the United Kingdom, the court in its ruling said, “The petitioner is a student pursuing her higher education and sufficient standing in society without any possibility of fleeing from justice”.
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