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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

No offence under UAPA made out against Delhi riot accused: HC

Observing that there is also no allegation that he engaged in any form of terror funding or any such activity, Justice Suresh Kumar Kait in the order said it is not alleged that he was privy to or part of organising protests against the CAA.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi | Updated: October 24, 2020 9:46:43 am
Northeast Delhi riots: Plea questions MHA, Delhi govt sanction to prosecute accusedPolice has challenged the order before the HC. (File)

THE DELHI High Court on Friday granted bail to an accused in the case registered by Delhi Police for “larger conspiracy” behind the Northeast Delhi violence, saying the investigating agency’s own record against him does not disclose the commission of offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Accused Faizan Khan, a SIM card provider, is the first to get bail on merits in the matter after stringent provisions of the anti-terror law were added to the FIR under investigation of Delhi Police’s Special Cell.

He is accused of providing a SIM card on a fake ID to co-accused and Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha and activating it. The SIM card was allegedly used by Jamia Coordination Committee, a group which the police say organised the protests against the enactment of Citizenship (Amendment Act), 2019.

Observing that there is also no allegation that he engaged in any form of terror funding or any such activity, Justice Suresh Kumar Kait in the order said it is not alleged that he was privy to or part of organising protests against the CAA. The case of the investigating agency is that the SIM card was provided on the allurement of extra money, the court said.

However, it added that for invoking the provisions of UAPA against Khan, it is the duty of the investigating agency to show he had “actual knowledge” that the SIM card would be used for organising the protests.

The court also said there was no proof such as CCTV footage, video or Khan’s chats with any of the groups and the only allegation is that he provided a SIM on fake ID in December 2019 against a “small amount” of Rs 200.

“It was imperative for the investigation agency to demonstrate that the petitioner had ‘active knowledge’ about the utilisation of the said SIM card. It is not alleged that the petitioner was party to any such conspiracy to organise protests,” the court said further.

Police filed a chargesheet in the case last month against 15 accused for “larger conspiracy” behind the Northeast Delhi violence. Former municipal councillor Tahir Hussain, former JNU student Umar Khalid, Pinjra Tod’s Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal and Tanha have also been arrested in the case, among others.

Student activist Safoora Zargar is the only one to have been granted bail in the case but on humanitarian grounds. Three other accused have also been granted bail in the case, prior to the invocation of UAPA.

Additional Solicitor General S V Raju had earlier argued before the court that Khan had “deliberately” issued the SIM card and was “well aware about the conspiracy of riots” since inception.

Senior Advocate Salman Khurshid, who represented Khan, had argued the UAPA provisions have been wrongly invoked against the accused.

Justice Kait said the transaction relating to the SIM card had allegedly taken place in December 2019 whereas the violence erupted around February 23-24 in 2020. “There is no proximate nexus between the aforesaid alleged incidents nor is it alleged that the SIM card was provided, on the pretext or with the intention/objective, to be utilised for organising protests, etc,” the court said, adding the investigating agency’s case is not that he was part of any WhatsApp groups which were allegedly used to coordinate the protests.

While granting bail to Khan, the court also took note that he had fully cooperated with the probe. Justice Kait said the “onerous conditions/embargo under section 43D (5) of the UAPA, 1967” will not be applicable in the case against Khan as the investigating agency’s status report did not disclose the commission of offences under UAPA, 1967. Section 43D (5) of the UAPA states that an accused shall not be released on bail if the court is of the opinion that “there are reasonable grounds for believing the accusation against such person is prima facie true”.

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