2020 Delhi riots: HC reserves order on bail pleas of Shifa-ur-Rehman, Gulfisha Fatima in UAPA case

Senior counsels appearing for Rehman and Fatima had contended that the two should be released on the ground of parity with other accused — Kalita, Narwal and Asif Iqbal Tanha — who were granted bail by the high court in June 2021.
Last Updated 05 March 2024, 13:51 IST

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on bail pleas by Alumni Association of Jamia Millia Islamia president Shifa-ur-Rehman and student activist Gulfisha Fatima in the case concerning the alleged larger conspiracy behind the 2020 riots.

A bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Manoj Jain heard the submissions by the counsel for the accused as well as the special public prosecutor (SPP).

Rehman, Fatima and several others, including student activists Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, have been booked under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and provisions of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly being the 'masterminds' of the February 2020 riots in northeast Delhi, which left 53 people dead and over 700 injured.

The violence had erupted during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The bail pleas were earlier pending before a division bench headed by Justice Siddharth Mridul who was last year appointed the Chief Justice of Manipur High Court.

SPP Amit Prasad, appearing for the Delhi Police, opposed the bail pleas, saying the statement of the protected witnesses showed the prima facie role of the accused persons, who were arrested in April 2020, in the conspiracy to cause violence.

He said there are 58 protected people who are 'key witnesses' in the case and urged the court to order a day-to-day trial.

The court, however, asked the SPP to state why one case should be heard on priority while keeping other cases pending.

Prasad, who was earlier asked by the court to state if the agency has concluded its investigation in the case, said a supplementary charge sheet will be filed as certain FSL reports were awaited and the status of the probe can be explained by the investigating officer (IO).

"I request 10 days' time be given. The IO can explain the status of investigation," he said.

"Supplementary charge sheet will come because when FSL results come, they have to be placed by way of supplementary charge sheet. There is no other way," added the SPP.

Senior counsels appearing for Rehman and Fatima contended that the two should be released on the ground of parity with other accused -- Kalita, Narwal and Asif Iqbal Tanha -- who were granted bail by the high court in June 2021.

The alleged role of Fatima is less than that of Kalita and Narwal, her lawyer Sushil Bajaj said.

Prasad said the issue of parity must also be seen in relation to the denial of bail to Umar Khalid after the high court acknowledged the existence of a conspiracy.

Senior advocate Salman Khurshid, appearing for Rehman, asserted that any form of protest, sit-ins or chakka jam cannot be called a terrorist activity under the UAPA and such a conclusion would go against the basis of jurisprudence of liberty in the country.

He also said no case was made out against Rehman to sustain his further incarceration.

Prasad said Rehman's Jamia Coordination Committee was 'central' to the conspiracy.

Both the accused had approached the high court in 2022 challenging trial court orders refusing to grant them bail.

Fatima has challenged the trial court’s March 16, 2022 order by which her bail plea was dismissed.

On April 7, 2022, the trial court had dismissed the bail plea of Rehman, saying that there were reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against the accused was “prima facie” true.

On October 18, 2022, the court had refused to grant bail to Umar Khalid in the same case, saying he was in constant touch with other co-accused and allegations against him were prima facie true.

Bail pleas of several other accused in the matter, including Sharjeel Imam, are pending in the high court.

(Published 05 March 2024, 13:51 IST)

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