GRANTING BAIL to 21 youths arrested for violence during an anti-CAA protest in Mangaluru on December 19 last year, when two persons were killed in police firing and eight others injured, the Karnataka High Court has observed that there was a “deliberate attempt” to “cover up police excesses” and the investigation was “mala fide and partisan”.
Police had accused Mohammed Ashik and 20 other Muslim youths of unlawful assembly with lethal weapons, attempting to set fire to a police station, obstructing police from discharging their duties and damaging public property while violating prohibitory orders. After their bail petition was rejected by an additional district and sessions judge in Dakshina Kannada district, the youths had approached the high court.
In his order granting bail on February 17, Justice John Michael Cunha said: “There is no direct evidence to connect the petitioners with the alleged offences. Investigation appears to be mala fide and partisan. In the said circumstances, in order to protect the rights and liberties of the petitioners, it is necessary to admit them to bail… The records indicate that deliberate attempt has been made to trump-up evidence and to deprive the liberties of petitioners by fabricating evidence.”
The court indicated that the police based their allegations against the youths solely on the premise that they were associated with the PFI.
“Though it is stated that the involvement of the petitioners is captured in the CCTV footage and photographs, no such material is produced before this court showing the presence of any one of the petitioners at the spot armed with deadly weapons,’’ it said. The gathering of the youths to stage a protest against CAA and NRC, as stated by police, “by itself is not an ‘unlawful object’ within the meaning of Section 141 of IPC,’’ it said.
“The photographs… depict that hardly any member of the crowd was armed with weapons, except one of them holding a bottle. In none of these photographs, police station or policemen are seen in the vicinity… photographs produced by the petitioners disclose that the policemen themselves were pelting stones on the crowd,’’ the court said.
“Overzealousness of the police is also evident from the fact that FIRs are registered under Section 307 IPC against the persons killed by the police themselves,’’ the court said.
“Even though the law required the police to register independent FIRs in view of the specific complaint made against police officers making out cognizable offences, the police failed to register FIRs, which would go to show that a deliberate attempt is underway to cover up police excesses by implicating innocent persons at the whims and caprice of the police,’’ it said.
“In the wake of the counter allegations made against the police and in the backdrop of the failure of the police to register the FIRs based on the complaints lodged by the victims, the possibility of false and mistaken implication cannot be ruled out,’’ it said.
The Congress used the bail order to target the ruling BJP in the House during a debate on police excesses in Mangaluru. State Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the state government would challenge the bail order.