During the bail plea hearing of Chandrashekhar Azad at Delhi’s Tis Hazari court, Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau Tuesday came down heavily on the Delhi Police saying the Bhim Army chief has a “constitutional right to protest.”
“What is wrong with dharna? What is wrong with protesting? It is one’s constitutional right to protest,” she asked the Additional Public Prosecutor, Pankaj Bhatia, who was representing the Delhi Police. The judge also said the Delhi Police was behaving as if Jama Masjid is in Pakistan. The plea has been adjourned till tomorrow.
Azad has been in jail since December 21 in connection with protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Old Delhi’s Daryaganj area. Azad’s outfit had organised a march from Jama Masjid to Jantar Mantar against the Act on December 20 without police permission.
“You are behaving as if Jama Masjid is Pakistan. Even if it was Pakistan, you can go there and protest. Pakistan was a part of undivided India,” Judge Lau said, stressing that the citizens have a right to protest.
When the prosecutor mentioned that prior permission for the protest was needed, Judge Lau countered it saying that the Supreme Court has repeatedly said that the use of Section 144 is an “abuse.”
The judge added that she had seen many people who had protested outside Parliament who later went on to become leaders and ministers. She also said that in things which should have been said in Parliament were not said, which is why people are out on the streets.
The APP referred to “thousands of social media posts” and argued that there was an attempt to incite violence.
The judge asked the prosecutor to read out some of Azad’s posts. Bhatia read out a post in the courtroom asking people to gather at Jama Masjid.
The ASJ replied, “What is the problem with protests? Anyone can protest peacefully. It is one’s constitutional right to protest. Where is the violence? What is wrong with any of these posts? Have you read the Constitution?” the ASJ asked.
“I want you to show me under which law it is prohibited for someone to protest outside religious places,” the judge asked the prosecutor.
The ASJ also sought evidence pertaining to inciting violence from the Delhi Police, to which the prosecutor replied, “We have drone images. So far we don’t have audio-video recording.”
The ASJ replied, “Our Delhi Police is so backward that we do not have recordings? There must have been recordings, in this case when there is something objectionable you say you have no recording.”
The ASJ then shot off questions to advocate Mehmood Pracha, who was representing Azad, about the Bhim Army chief’s professional background. “How does he earn his money,” the judge asked. Pracha replied, “He is a lawyer and also a double MA. The ASJ asked, “Is he a practising advocate or a demonstrating advocate?”
To which Pracha replied, “He is a social worker.” “All layers are social workers,” the ASJ replied.
Pracha told the judge, “We have learned from our forefathers ..during the British time that you have to go out of the courts and fight for our rights.”
The ASJ replied, “But that was during the British time. These are our courts. We talk about social engineering that can happen only if we adopt the law. There is a time of political engineering…because things that should have been said in the Parliament have not been said people are out on the streets.”
On January 9, a court in Delhi had ordered Tihar Jail authorities to shift Azad to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences so that he can receive treatment for polycythemia, a blood disease. In his petition, Azad said there was no evidence that he instigated the crowd in the march from Jama Masjid to Delhi Gate to turn violent.