On May 29, the Delhi High Court, granting bail to an accused in a case linked to the February riots, rejected the police argument that giving bail “may send an adverse message (to) society” — and said its remit is “to dispense justice” and “not to send messages to society”. Records show that Delhi Police used this argument in at least 19 riots cases, 15 of them after the High Court’s May 29 observations.
In its order granting bail to Firoz Khan, an Old Mustafabad resident sent to judicial custody on April 3 in a case lodged in Dayalpur, the High Court said: “Prison is primarily for punishing convicts; not for detaining undertrials in order to send any ‘message’ to society. The remit of the court is to dispense justice in accordance with law, not to send messages to society.”
Subsequently, on June 6, Khan was granted bail by a district court in four other cases on the ground that the facts in those cases were no different from the one decided by the High Court.
However, despite the High Court order, records show that the police have pursued this line of argument, with mixed results. Consider the following 19 cases:
June 11: One of the grounds for opposing a bail application from Amit, named as an accused in a case registered in Khajuri Khas, was that releasing “the applicant may send an adverse message (to) the society and weaken the faith of the people in the secular image (of) the country.” He was denied bail.
The same day, bail applications of another accused Ashwani, in four cases registered in Karawal Nagar, were opposed on similar grounds. He got bail in all four cases.
June 9: Bail applications from four riot-accused — Ashutosh (1 case, Khajuri Khas), Mitthan (1 case, Khajuri Khas), Surender (1 case, New Usmanpur) and Suaib (1 case, Bhajanpura) — were contested to avoid sending a “wrong message”. Only Ashutosh got bail.
June 4: Bail applications in two cases registered in Khajuri Khas against accused Asif were opposed on the ground that “granting of bail at this early stage may send adverse message (to) society and weaken the faith of the people (in the) country’s secular image”. The same argument was used against Taseem in one case in Bhajanpura. Bail was granted in all three cases.
June 3: Bail applications from accused Deepak (2 cases, Welcome) and one from Raj Kamal (1 case, Welcome) were opposed so that no “wrong message” was sent. Bail was denied in all three cases.
May 22: The investigating officer (IO) opposed bail applications in three cases registered in New Usmanpur against accused Manish, submitting that “granting him bail at this stage would send a very adverse message (to) the society”. Bail was granted in all three cases.
May 3: “Granting of bail may send wrong message to the society” was one of the six grounds on which the IO opposed accused Gulfisha’s bail application in a case registered in Jaffrabad. Bail was denied.
The High Court order has been cited by defense counsel, too, to press for bail in the riot cases, but again with mixed results.
For example, reliance on the order brought relief for Ziauddin in a case registered in Dayalpur — bail was granted on June 19. But a similar reference on June 6 did not get relief for Shadab Ahmed, who has been charged in Dayalpur in the murder of a police official. A district court ruled that the applicant was “not entitled for bail considering the overall impact of the incident on the society at large”.
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