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Delhi Riots: Court Extends Judicial Custody of Jamia Students Safoora Zargar and Meeran Haider

File photo of Jamia student Safoora Zargar.

File photo of Jamia student Safoora Zargar.

The court allowed Jamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha, booked under the anti-terror law to have fresh legal interviews with his counsel after he claimed that police refused to move out of the room during a meeting held earlier.

A Delhi court Tuesday extended by 30 days the judicial custody of Safoora Zargar and Meera Haider, Jamia Coordination Committee members booked under the stringent anti-terror law -- Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act -- in a case related to communal violence in northeast Delhi during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in February.

Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana remanded them to further custody till June 25 after they were produced before him through video conferencing from Tihar jail.

Haider is a PhD student and Zargar is a MPhil student of Jamia Millia Islamia. Besides Haider and Zargar, Jamia student Gulfisha Khatoon, activist Khalid Saifi, former Congress councilor Ishrat Jahan and suspended AAP councilor Tahir Hussain were also produced before the court through video conferencing.

Police had moved an application seeking to extend the judicial custody of Haider, Safoora and Hussain for 30 days and till June 14 for Jahan and Saifi.

While the court allowed the police plea for Haider and Safoora, it said the applications for the rest will be taken up on the day their judicial custody would expire. It put up the matter for further hearing on May 28.

Saifi and Ishrat are in judicial custody till May 30 and the judicial custody of Hussain will expire on May 29.

Police said in its application that there was sufficient evidence against the accused persons to be charge sheeted under the invoked sections of UAPA, other sections of IPC and other acts in the case.

The application was moved as District and Sessions Judge of Patiala House Courts had passed an order on May 22 that Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana shall deal with the entire remand work pertaining to UAPA, SC/ST Act, PMLA Act, Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, Drugs and cosmetics Act and Official Secrets Act.

This comes after the Delhi High Court had issued notices to both the Centre and the Delhi government over continued detention of Khatoon, 25-year-old MBA student under UAPA when the Special Courts which can extend her custody have not been functioning due to coronavirus-induced lockdown.

The police on Tuesday clarified before the local court that for the purpose of the extension of remands, the District Judges had deputed duty Metropolitan Magistrates in jails situated in Delhi and the remand of the accused persons were extended in terms of the directions issued by the High Court.

Advocates Akram Khan and Ritesh Dhar Dubey, appearing for Haider and Khatoon respectively, had earlier told the court that the accused have been falsely implicated in the case. Advocate Mehmood Pracha, appearing for Khatoon, had said that she has been falsely booked under the anti-terror law.

The accused have also been charged under sedition, attempt to murder, murder, criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth etc.

Jamia Alumni Association President Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Jamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha and Umar Khalid have also been booked under UAPA in the case. Khalid has not been arrested yet.

According to the FIR, the communal riots from February 23-26 was a "pre-meditated conspiracy" and hatched by Khalid and his associates. All the associates were linked to two different groups, FIR said.

It further claimed that as per the pre-planned conspiracy, Khalid had given provocative speeches at various places and appealed to the Muslim minority community gathering to block roads and other public places during the visit of President of US Donald Trump so that the propaganda may be flashed at an international platform that Muslim minority community in India was being tortured.

In order to achieve these objectives, on February 23, riots occurred in different areas of Delhi and in furtherance of the nefarious designs, on February 23, 24, the two groups started riots in different parts of north east and Shahdara districts of Delhi which continued till February 26, the FIR alleged.

Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.

Fresh Meeting

Tanha, however, was allowed to have fresh legal interviews with his counsel after he claimed that police refused to move out of the room during the meeting held earlier.

Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana directed the investigating officer to make necessary arrangements for the meetings and render all possible assistance to Tanha's counsel for an effective legal interview, keeping in mind the right of privileged communication between counsel and her client. The court had on May 20 allowed his counsel to meet with him during police custody.

The application, moved by advocate Sowjhanya Shankaran, said as per the court's order, she was allowed to have a meeting with Tanha during police custody.

It claimed that although the investigating officer permitted her to conduct the interview, but police refused to move out of the room and denied the opportunity to converse in private with Tanha.

The application sought fresh directions to the police officials to allow her to conduct legal interview with her client Tanha outside hearing of the police officials.

During the hearing, Additional Public Prosecutor said that the conversation between client and his counsel is a privileged communication and for effective legal aid and assistance a certain degree of privacy was required for conducting legal interviews.

According to the police, Tanha, a resident of Abul Fazal Enclave in Shaheen Bagh, is a member of the Students Islamic Organization and was part of the Jamia Coordination Committee which spearheaded protests against the new Citizenship Amendment Law.

Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider, President of Jamia Alumni Association Shifa-Ur-Rehman, suspended AAP Councillor Tahir Hussain have also been booked under the anti-terror law in the case.

Tanha, 24, is a third-year student of BA in Persian language and was also recently arrested by the police in a separate case related to riots in the Jamia area in December last year. He was named as an accused in the FIR.

Tanha is a close associate of Khalid, Imam, Haider and Zargar who had been key organisers of anti-CAA protests and subsequent riots, the police had said.

On December 15 last year, protesters torched four public buses and two police vehicles as they clashed with police in New Friends'' Colony near Jamia Millia Islamia during a demonstration against the amended Citizenship Act, leaving at least 40 people including students, policemen and fire fighters injured.