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Granting Mevani bail, court raps Assam Police for ‘abusing process of court and law’

After being granted bail in a "defamatory" tweet case, Mevani on Monday was rearrested in a fresh case filed in Barpeta district under various charges including assault of a public servant and outraging a woman’s modesty.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: April 30, 2022 10:22:54 am
Jignesh Mevani, Mevani 2017 rally, Jignesh mevani rally judgement today, Gujarat news, India news, Indian expressGujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani. (File)

GRANTING BAIL to Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, arrested for allegedly assaulting a woman police officer while in custody, a court in Assam’s Barpeta district on Friday pulled up the state police for lodging a “false FIR” and “abusing the process of the court and the law”. It also warned the Assam Police against “converting our hard earned democracy into a police state”.

Citing “ongoing police excesses in the state”, Barpeta District and Sessions Judge Aparesh Chakravarty urged the Gauhati High Court to direct the police force to “reform itself”. “Converting our hard earned democracy into a police state is simply unthinkable and if the Assam Police is thinking about the same, the same is perverse thinking,” the court said.

It said the High Court should consider directing “each and every police personnel engaged in law and order duty to wear body cameras, to install CCTV cameras in vehicles while arresting an accused or taking an accused to some place for recoveries of goods or other reasons, and also install CCTV cameras inside all police stations.”

These measures should be considered to “prevent registration of false FIR like the present one and to give credibility to the police version of occurrences like the arrest of accused persons and the accused persons attempting to escape from police custody at midnight, while the accused was allegedly leading the police personnel to discover something, and the police personnel firing and killing or injuring such accused, which has become a routine phenomenon in the state,” it said.

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The court directed that a copy of the order be sent to the Registrar General of the High Court for placing it before the Chief Justice “to look into this aspect and consider whether the matter can be taken up as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to curb the ongoing police excesses in the state”.

According to data shared in the Assam Assembly last month, 29 people have been killed and 96 injured in police firing since Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma took charge in May 2021.

“The bail has been granted against a personal bond of Rs 1,000. Some formalities are left and he has to be taken to Kokrajhar, so he will be released only tomorrow,” Mevani’s counsel Angshuman Bora told The Indian Express. He said the court had given a “strong” judgment. “This is a false case. I was arguing before the court that his detention is illegal and doesn’t follow due procedure of law. This has been accepted by the  court,” he said.

Mevani, an Independent MLA who had pledged support to the Congress last September, was arrested by the Assam Police from Gujarat’s Banaskantha district late on April 20 and flown to Guwahati the next morning following a complaint filed by a BJP leader in Kokrajhar district over a purported tweet against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On April 25, Mevani was granted bail by a Kokrajhar court, but was re-arrested in a fresh case filed in Barpeta district on the basis of a complaint by a woman police officer who accused him of “assaulting” her and “outraging her modesty”.

In her complaint, the woman police officer said Mevani “uttered slang words” at her and “physically pushed” her when she was escorting him, in a government vehicle, from Guwahati airport to Kokrajhar on April 21. According to the FIR, two other police officers were present in the vehicle.

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The court said on Friday that her version did not add up to the details in the FIR. “It was manufactured for the purpose of keeping the accused in detention for a longer period, abusing the process of the court and the law,” it said. “No sane person will ever try to outrage the modesty of a lady police officer in the presence of two male police officers and there is nothing in the record to hold that the accused… is an insane person,” the court said.

A PTI report quoted Mevani as alleging that his arrest was a “conspiracy” planned in the Prime Minister’s Office. “I have full faith in the judiciary. I had it in the past and it will remain so in the future. I would have definitely got bail, if not today, then tomorrow,” he said. “The BJP government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not arrest Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi or Vijay Mallya but, for a tweet, Jignesh Mevani is arrested and brought thousands of kilometres from Gujarat to a jail in Assam. What is the message he is trying to give,” he was quoted as saying.

“I was targeted by the BJP, just like they did with Chandrasekhar Azad, Akhil Gogoi, Hardik Patel, Kanhaiya Kumar and other youth leaders, but none of us have stopped speaking against the BJP and the RSS,” he said, according to PTI. “What will I achieve by engaging in a scuffle with a junior officer? The police took me into custody and it was their job to interrogate me and I cooperated with them,” he said.

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