The Delhi High Court Tuesday refused bail to two persons in a case concerning the alleged murder of Delhi Police head constable Ratan Lal during the north-east Delhi riots in 2020, saying that the footage of the crime scene was quite egregious and sufficient to keep them in further custody. However, Justice Subramonium Prasad, in two other orders, granted bail to two persons in the same case, saying their presence at the crime scene and participation in the unlawful assembly would be tested during the trial. The court said the bail is subject to them furnishing a personal bond in the sum of Rs 35,000 with one surety of the like amount and other conditions including the accused not leaving the city and periodically reporting to the concerned police station.
While rejecting bail of other two, the court stated that there was clinching evidence to show the presence of the accused persons, Sadiq and Irshad, who were in custody since April 2020 and December 2020, respectively, at the scene of crime. The clinching evidence that tilts this Court to prolong the incarceration of the Petitioner is his presence in the video wherein he is clearly identified at the Scene of Crime, holding a danda in one hand and pelting stones with his other hand at uniformed officials who at present around him, and are heavily and hopelessly outnumbered. The accused is not merely a curious onlooker, the court stated in one of the order while denying bail. The fact that he actively participated and pelted stones at the Police Officials at the Scene of Crime justifies the invocation of Section 149 IPC read with Section 302 IPC in the instant case, it added.
On the other hand, for the accused, Mohd Ayub and Shahnawaz, both in custody since March 2020, who were granted bail in the FIR, the court observed that there was no electronic evidence to place them at the scene of crime as a part of the unlawful mob and there cannot be an umbrella assumption of guilt. When there is a crowd involved, at the juncture of grant or denial of bail, the Court must hesitate before arriving at the conclusion that every member of the unlawful assembly inhabits a common intention to accomplish the unlawful common object, it said. Stating that bail is the rule and jail is the exception, the court asserted that it was its constitutional duty to ensure that there is no arbitrary deprivation of personal liberty in the face of excess of state power. The Supreme Court has time and again held that Courts need to be alive to both ends of the spectrum, i.e. the duty of the Courts to ensure proper enforcement of criminal law, and the duty of the Courts to ensure that the law does not become a tool for targeted harassment, it added.
The court also clarified that merely being one of the organisers of the protest as well as being in touch with others who participated in the protest is also not sufficient enough to justify the prosecution’s stand that one of the accused who was granted bail was involved in the pre-planning of the alleged incident. This Court has already opined that the right to protest and express dissent is a right which occupies a fundamental stature in a polity, and therefore, the fact that the Petitioner was part of the protest is not a sufficient ground to refuse bail to him, it said while giving relief to one of the accused.
Prosecution opposed grant of bail in the cases, contending that the death of head constable Ratan Lal was the first death in the North-East Delhi riots and the absence of an accused from a video footage does not translate into absence of the accused from the scene of crime. .