The Delhi High Court on Tuesday granted bail to Pinjra Tod activists Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, as well as Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) student Asif Iqbal Tanha in connection with the main conspiracy case of last February’s riots in northeast Delhi.
This morning a High Court bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup Jairam Bhambhani set aside those orders and allowed bail on a personal bond and sureties of ₹ 50,000 each, the surrender of passports, an undertaking to refrain from unlawful activities and not hamper investigations.
“It seems that in its anxiety to suppress dissent, in the mind of the State, the line between constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and terrorist activity seems to be getting somewhat blurred. If this mindset gains traction, it would be a sad day for democracy,” the court noted.
Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita were arrested in May last year.
They were first arrested on similar charges – relating to riots in the Jaffrabad area of Delhi – but were given bail. The court in that case said videos of the protest did not show Ms Narwal encouraging or inciting violence, as had been claimed.
Their second arrest came a day after that bail order.
Ms Narwal had been granted interim bail for three weeks last month to perform the last rites for her father Mahavir Narwal, a senior CPM member who died after contracting the coronavirus.
In January a Delhi sessions court had refused Ms Kalita bail.
The two are associated with Pinjra Tod – a collective of women students of and alumni from colleges and universities across Delhi, who fight for women’s rights.
The High Court had, earlier this month, also granted Jamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha interim bail so he could study for and take exams due this month.
The court noted it was imperative for Mr Tanha to complete his degree and ordered that he be released on interim custody and brought back to prison on the evening of June 26.
Mr Tanha was arrested for allegedly being part of a premeditated conspiracy in the riots.
Violence broke out in the northeastern parts of Delhi in February last year after tension between supporters of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act and those protesting against it.
Over 50 people died and around 200 were injured in the violence that followed.
Meanwhile, Tanha was arrested in May 2020 for allegedly being a part of a “pre-meditated” conspiracy in the riots. He challenged a trial court’s order from October that year dismissing his bail application on the ground that he allegedly played an active role in the entire conspiracy with reasonable grounds for believing the allegations to be prima facie true.