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Law

'Bulli Bai'-'Sulli Deals' Case: Mumbai Court Grants Bail to 3; All 6 Accused Now Out on Bail

While three accused had been granted bail in April this year, the Mumbai sessions court on Tuesday granted bail to the remaining accused, which included the alleged founders of both apps.

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New Delhi: The Mumbai sessions court on Tuesday, June 21, granted bail to the three accused in the ‘Bulli Bai’/’Sulli Deals’ cases who were still in custody. As the three other accused in the cases had already been granted bail earlier this year, all six accused in the cases are now out on bail.

‘Sulli Deals’, which surfaced in July, 2021, was hosted on content sharing platform, GitHub, staged ‘auctions’ for prominent Muslim women by using manipulated pictures of them without their consent, along with derogatory remarks, and shared them online. 

While the Delhi police had filed a first information report (FIR) in the case under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 354 A (sexual harassment), no immediate arrests were made.

Thereafter, in January this year, the ‘Bulli Bai’ app came about which bore striking similarities to ‘Sulli Deals’ and also staged auctions for prominent Muslim women. After police complaints and considerable public outcry, the police made their first arrests in both cases.

A total of six individuals were arrested in both cases. These included Aumkareshwar Thakur, the alleged creator of the ‘Sulli Deals’ app; Neeraj Bishnoi, the alleged creator of ‘Bulli Bai’; as well as Vishal Kumar Jha, Shweta Singh, Mayank Agarwal and Neeraj Singh.

Also read: ‘Bulli Bai’, ‘Sulli Deals’: On Being Put Up for ‘Auction’ as an Indian Muslim Woman

Of the accused, Jha, Singh and Agarwal were granted bail by the court of the metropolitan magistrate, Bandra, in April this year after initially being denied bail by the same court as well as a sessions court on the ground that investigation in the case was ongoing.

At that time, the Bandra court had denied bail to Thakur and Bishnoi. However, the alleged creators of both apps had been granted bail by the Patiala House court in Delhi in March this year after the court established that neither was a ‘flight risk’. Yet, they remained in custody in light of the charges against them in Mumbai.

The present order

In the session’s court’s June 21 order, additional sessions judge A.B. Sharma directed that the accused be released upon furnishing a Rs 50,000 bail bond along with one or two sureties of the same amount, Bar and Bench reported.

Their bail conditions included that they must pay monthly visits to the cyber police station and that they can not leave the country without the prior permission of the court. 

In the bail application, submitted through advocate Shivam Deshmukh, several grounds were put forth arguing for the grant of bail. It argued that the accused had been falsely implicated in the case and have not committed the alleged offences; that they are not the creators of the app and were merely followers, which does not constitute an offence; and that since the punishment for the offences is less than three years, incarceration is unwarranted.

Further, the application argued that they had already been granted bail from a Delhi court and that their co-accused had already been granted bail; and that since all the relevant electronic evidence has been seized, the cannot tamper with it.

Interestingly, Deshmukh even contended that the charges against the applicants which allege the incitement of disharmony among different religions do not hold because only one religion (Islam) was targeted. 

Finally, the application argued that the accused hail from ‘respectable’ families and that the alleged act is, therefore, ‘beyond imagination’. Yet, it stated that even if the allegations are true, the court should take a “fatherly view” and that the accused require counselling rather than incarceration.

The special prosecutor, representing the state, opposed most of these contentions, arguing that all the evidence collected thus far makes out a prima facie case against the accused. Moreover, he held that their alleged actions disrupted the harmony of the nation and even hit at its integrity. 

Yet, despite the prosecutor’s prayer that the bail application be denied, it was granted by the court.