Updated: April 17, 2021 8:03:48 pm
A Delhi court Saturday granted bail to Punjabi actor-activist Deep Sidhu, arrested in connection with the violence at Red Fort on Republic Day, saying that the prosecution had sought to make an example of him since he was popular, but that this “hazards a failure of justice”, and that his continued detention was infringement of his right to life and liberty.
Hours later, the Delhi Police’s Crime Branch arrested Sidhu over the charge of damaging the monument.
In the bail order, Special Judge Neelofer Abida Perveen said it would “violate and infringe the fundamental right to life and liberty as guaranteed to the accused-applicant” if he is denied bail on the nature of accusations and material alone, with the police yet to identify the thousand-plus people who had been part of the mob at Red Fort. Sidhu has been under arrest since February 9.
None of the acts of violence reported in the case had been attributed to him, the court added. Judge Perveen said the prosecution “seeks to make an example out of the case of the accused-applicant, he being a popular public figure… Such an endeavour however hazards a failure of justice as a result of compromised objectivity”.
The court added that the police have seized the clothes and a vehicle used by Sidhu to reach the spot, and “further incarceration for the sole purpose of voice sampling is not justifiable”.
Noting that the prosecution case rests largely on contents of video recordings on social media, the court said there was only a “remote possibility” that Sidhu would tamper with the content.
Soon after the court order, a team of the Delhi Police Crime Branch arrested Sidhu from Tihar Jail, where he is lodged, in connection with an FIR lodged late in January by the Archaeological Survey of India, under Sections of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, Prevention of Insults to National Honours Act and the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, Arms Act, rioting etc. He will be produced before a judge on Sunday.
The FIR, that doesn’t name Sidhu or any other protester, has an archaeologist with the ASI as the complainant. The FIR states that on January 26, a mob of 200-300 protesters had come to the Red Fort.
“The mob turned to damage the ticket counters, door frame metal detectors and the baggage scanners… The huge iron door within Lahori Gate was firmly secured with an iron chain and lock. The mob climbed over this iron door and jumped inside and thereafter broke the chain lock with the help of iron tools… Once inside, some of the protestors broke the electrical fittings of the illumination lights and the stone casing around them… Three tractors also managed to make their entry into the Red Fort premises. A section of the mob then charged towards the ramparts and forcefully hoisted a flag on the pole where the Hon’ble PM hoists the National Flag on Independence Day… In the process… two of the seven small burjis (domes) were removed,” reads the FIR.
In the case for which Sidhu has been under arrest since February, the police had claimed his intention was to “create violence and disregard our national flag”. It had also told the court that Sidhu was “the main rioter and instigator” of the Red Fort incident, that he “provoked people… thus inciting violence” and that he had been seen in a video with “swords, sticks and flags”.
Sidhu’s lawyers said he had admitted his “mistake” in posting what was happening at Red Fort on Facebook Live.
Granting bail to Sidhu subject to a personal bond with two sureties of the sum of Rs 30,000 each, the court said the prosecution could act against him based on future findings.
“The facts of the matter, the specific allegations cannot be lost sight of and nature of incriminating material cannot be disregarded at any cost. It would lie within the prosecution to establish the accusations by collecting material and leading credible evidence in the course of trial, and for the Trial Court to assess and appreciate the evidence and determine the culpability of the accused-applicant at the appropriate stages of the proceedings,” the court said.
The court also said the FIR against Sidhu did not violate the right to protest. “While it is beyond the realm of dispute that dissent and dialogue is fundamental to democracy, where absolute power vests in the people exercised by the people through its elected representatives, and that the Constitution of India guarantees the right to protest, the present FIR is not impinging upon this fundamental right to protest in any manner,” the Special Judge said
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