Updated: October 12, 2021 9:40:56 am
At least 14 of the 16 people arrested by the Assam Police in August for allegedly putting up social media posts “supporting” the recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan have been granted bail by the local courts. While all but one had been booked under the stringent UAPA, which makes bail very difficult, the courts ruled that there were not enough grounds to keep them in jail.
Assam Special DGP (Law and Order) G P Singh had announced the first 14 arrests on August 21, while two more were held the next day. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had directed police to “act without fear and favour”. Asked about the court orders, Singh told The Indian Express: “Bail is the prerogative of the judiciary.”
Among those who have got bail is Maulana Fazlul Karim Qasimi, 49, former AIUDF general secretary and Jamiat state secretary, hailing from Sipajhar in Darrang district. Granting him bail on October 6, the Gauhati High Court said there was “nothing incriminating” against him barring that Facebook post “emanating from his personal account”. “Even if it is accepted that the applicant is the author of the Facebook post… in the absence of other incriminating materials, it is doubtful as to whether, the contents thereof alone would constitute a cognizable offence. Further custodial detention of the applicant would be uncalled for in this case,” said Justice Suman Shyam.
Saidul Hoque, a constable with the 21st Assam Police (IR) Battalion, got bail on September 22. In the order, the Kamrup Sessions Court noted that the FIR said Hoque had posted “one incriminating message ‘Congratulations Taliban’” on August 18 on Facebook, and claimed his “intention was to further the activity of the terrorist group”. However, the court ruled, the available materials were “prima facie insufficient to connect till date the accused supports or invites to support terrorist organisation to attract offence u/s 39 of UA(P) Act.”
A senior Gauhati High Court Advocate, who knows the case from close, said most posts seemed “unintentional” and did not call for “stringent action like the UAPA”. “The court understood that and hence, several got bail,” he said.
Jawed Husain Mazumder (30), Faruk Husain Khan (32), Mozidul Islam (25), Arman Hussain (25), medical student Nadim Akhtar Laskar (23), retired maulana Basiruddin Laskar (65) and Maqbool Alam got bail at the initial stage (‘motion stage’) itself, from Gauhati High Court judge Hitesh Kumar Sarma. The court said it did not find anything that required “further custodial detention”.
In the case of Abu Bakkar Sidique (55), alias Afga Khan Avilekh, a teacher at a private coaching centre, the court said his “case diary” had not been received, and he had already been in detention for 47 days.
Also out on bail is Rafiqul Islam, 26, a teacher and a reporter for two local news outlets.
The two accused held from Karimganj district, Mujib Uddin, 24, a teacher, and B.Com student Mortuza Hussain Khan, 18, are both out on bail, confirmed Padmanabh Baruah, SP, Karimganj.
Yaseen Khan, a maulana, the only one not booked under the UAPA, was released on bail on September 15, confirmed Goalpara SP V V Rakesh Reddy.
Of the two yet to get bail, the pleas of both — Khandakar Nur Alom, 57, and Saiyad Ahmed, a rickshaw puller — were rejected by the Dhubri Sessions Court. Ahmed’s lawyer said the next hearing was on October 22. “We are hopeful,” said Jamsed Talukdar.
The Indian Express reached out to two of those who had been released but neither wanted to be quoted.
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