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Delhi Riots: Court Dismisses Bail Pleas of Pinjra Tod Activist Natasha Narwal in UAPA Case

File photo of a car burnt during the riots in Northeast Delhi in February this year.

File photo of a car burnt during the riots in Northeast Delhi in February this year.

The court said allegations against JNU student and Pinjra Tod member Natasha Narwal were prima facie true and provisions of antiterror law have been rightly invoked in the case.

A court here on Thursday dismissed the bail plea of JNU student and Pinjra Tod member Natasha Narwal, booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in a north east Delhi riots case, saying allegations against her were prima facie true and provisions of anti-terror law have been rightly invoked in the present case. Narwal was arrested in the case for allegedly being part of a premeditated conspiracy in the riots.

Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat said in a case of conspiracy of such a large scale, not having a video was not so vital as generally conspiracy, by its very nature, is hatched in secrecy and not having videos of such a conspiracy was obvious rather than doubtful. The court said in a case of conspiracy, even the presence of an accused at a site was not sine qua non (essential condition) for establishing his or her role.

"In the present case, the presence of the accused is established over a period of time. Thus, on the perusal of the charge sheet and accompanying documents, for the limited purpose of the bail, I am of the opinion that allegations against accused Natasha Narwal are prima facie true," the judge said in his order. There is a linkage shown by the prosecution between accused with other accused persons, the court said adding that if it looked at the statement of protected witnesses under sections 164 (examination by magistrate) CrPC, it finds sufficient incriminating material against Narwal.

The court noted there was no gainsaying the fact that all the citizens of the country under the Constitution have the right and freedom to protest including the right to oppose any legislation, however, it is not an absolute right but subject to reasonable restrictions. It said the reliance by Natasha's counsel on videos or any other material outside the charge-sheet was of no assistance. During the hearing, advocate Adit S Pujari, appearing for Narwal, had suggested that why would the accused, being a Hindu, organise violence and riots by instigating Muslims against her own community.

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Police's Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad opposed the bail plea saying Narwal had allegedly conspired with others to gather women protestors from Jahangirpuri who resorted to violence. In the order, the court said the references to various other persons, who as per the counsel for the accused had allegedly given incendiary speeches in Delhi Elections or later on, was not as such germane to the bail application, since the count was considering the bail plea of Narwal and not of others, particularly those who are not accused in the present case. "The contention of the counsel for the accused that the sanction was given in haste is not for this court to give an opinion on. What is important is that an independent authority has given its opinion about the applicability of UAPA in the present case. "Thus, pre-planned vociferous agitation in the guise of Citizenship Amendment Bill coupled with other resultant activities of confrontation and violence leading to riots would show it was meant to cause or intended to cause disaffection against India," the court said.

The court further said it was relevant to mention that even taking the arguments of the counsel for the accused at face value that only one side of the road was blocked, it would still be a complete blockage preventing ingress and egress for the people who are surrounded and for whom panic and terror was created. "Hence, the provisions of UAPA have been rightly invoked in the present case," it said.

It noted that as per the prosecution, there were messages on DPSG (Delhi Protest Support Group) Whatsapp Group, particularly on February 22, 23 and 24 last year, allegedly showing the role of Pinjra Tod. "There are messages of the relevant contemporaneous period which shows that there was opposition to road block plans of Pinjra Tod and reference to a violent protest by them… It was also messaged that local women protesters were disagreeing with the roadblock plan and there was a specific suggestion that Pinjra Tod is inciting violence and there would be effort to stop them at Seelampur, Jafrabad. "In fact, there was a reference to the accused regarding the distribution of Red Mirchi powder to women for attacking police and paramilitary of dated February 23, 2020, and thus, there is contemporaneous record which cannot be wished away at this stage of bail," the court further said.

It said that February 24, 2020, onwards there was a flurry of calls between accused and other persons who were not physically present with each other but which showed connection between them and many of them coming together at a place pointing to circumstances suggesting conspiracy. It further said the contention that accused had no role in raising funds for riots or that acid related injury in the riots were not within the jurisdiction Police Station Jafrabad or injuries due to 'lal mirch' (red chilli) powder were not shown anywhere in any document was misplaced as firstly, other accused persons in the case were alleged to have done their part in the conspiracy and the conspiracy had to be read as a whole and not piecemeal.

Communal violence had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 last year after clashes between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured. Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage) was founded in 2015 with an aim to make hostels and paying guest accommodations less restrictive for women students.

first published:January 28, 2021, 21:40 IST
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