“When you choose to play with embers, you cannot blame the wind to have carried the spark a bit too far and spread the fire,” a Delhi court has observed while dismissing the bail plea of Jamia coordination committee media coordinator Safoora Zargar. The 27-year-old, who is pregnant, was arrested by the Special Cell on April 13 and is facing a UAPA case in connection with the Northeast Delhi riots. She is lodged in Tihar Jail.
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana, in his order passed Thursday, said that during investigation of the case, “a larger conspiracy is discernible and a second investigation by way of a separate FIR to unravel the entire conspiracy sounds not only logical but perfectly legal”.
Safoora’s counsel Trideep Pais argued that the investigating agency was creating a false narrative to implicate innocent students who don’t agree with government policies. It was also submitted that “merely holding a divergent view is no offence, and by no stretch of imagination can she be branded a terrorist”.
The prosecution had submitted that Safoora had made an inflammatory speech on February 23 at Chand Bagh, which led to violence and rioting in Northeast Delhi. Additional Public Prosecutor Irfan Ahmad argued that there was “enough material available on record to show that the applicant/accused was involved in the Delhi riots”.
ASJ Rana, in his order, said he agreed with the defence counsel’s submission that free flow of ideas and dissent through peaceful protest constitutes the foundation of a strong and vibrant democracy, and that exchange of ideas is the stepping stone of evolution. However, the order added, “The right of speech and expression, and for that matter protest or demonstration, is not an absolute right and is subject to reasonable restrictions under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.”
ASJ Rana also dealt with whether provisions of UAPA have been rightfully invoked in this case. “Any activity which has a tendency to create a disorder or disturbance of law and order, and to such an extent that the entire city is brought to its knees and entire government machinery has been brought to a grinding halt, such activity should be obviously treated as an unlawful activity,” the order read.
The court also noted that from “the material on record, one cannot ignore the case of prosecution that the accused persons have conspired to cause disruption of such an extent and magnitude that it would lead to disorderliness and disturbance of law and order at an unprecedented scale”.
ASJ Rana said that at this stage, the court was not required to discuss the merits of the prosecution case, but after going through a statement filed under sections 161 and 164 of CrPC, coupled with WhatsApp chats on record, he said, “It can be safely inferred that there is at least a conspiracy to blockade the roads.”
The court also did not agree with the defence that Safoora was only liable for her individual acts and speeches and acts of other members of the group cannot be read against her.
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