Updated: January 24, 2020 10:34:33 am
As more and more cases against protesters charged with attempt to murder and rioting during anti-CAA protests in December began failing legal scrutiny and courts started granting bail, police in Muzaffarnagar invoked a stringent provision of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 — almost a month after it booked 107 people — and claimed that protesters used children “for illegal activity”.
Section 83 (2) of the JJ Act was invoked against at least 33 accused named in an FIR lodged on December 21 at the Civil Line police station in Muzaffarnagar — that FIR was also against 3,000 unknown accused. A person found guilty under this charge can end up in prison for seven years. So far, 33 of the 107 accused have been granted bail, 14 of them after being booked under the JJ Act.
The first such bail order was passed on January 17 by Additional Sessions Judge Sanjay Kumar Pachauri when he ordered the release of accused Mohammed Shehzad and Sahib. Earlier, police had moved an application before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, informing the court that it would invoke the JJ Act provision.
Incidentally, while police invoked the additional charge almost a month after the incident, the FIR, based on testimonies of police personnel deployed at the protest site, made no mention of any children indulging in any “illegal activity”. The bail order too made no mention of the accused using children for “illegal activity”.
The FIR stated: “The accused person, present at the Madina Chowk. indulged in rioting. created an atmosphere of terror, forcing everyone to shut their shops. They also destroyed public property and indulged in arson. Police officers were also injured and taken for medical examination. The accused was also involved in stone-pelting with intention to harm police deployed at the spot.”
The sessions court, however, granted bail. It relied on Supreme Court judgments stating that Article 21 of the Constitution, which deals with protection of life and personal liberty, is one of the important factors in deciding grant of bail.
The other accused granted bail include Wasim, Asif, Shavez, Sartaj, Shahnawaz, Waseem, Nouman, Ikram, Raja, Zeeshan, Kalim and Dilshad.
Police invoked the additional charge after 19 people were released on bail, either by police or court, due to lack of evidence or after withdrawal of charges of grievous offences. In the case of five accused, police themselves granted bail under Section 169 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which is invoked when “evidence is deficient”. Ten were released by the sessions court after police were only able to prove that they had prima facie violated prohibitory orders, and were not involved in rioting or attempt to murder.
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