Delhi Riots: HC Grants Bail to Two Accused, Reasserts That 'Jail an Exception'

The bail pleas of two others accused in the same case were rejected.

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New Delhi: The Delhi high court has reaffirmed that ‘bail is the norm and jail is an exception’ while granting bail to two persons accused in the murder case of a head constable and injuries caused to a senior police officer during the Delhi riots in February last year, LiveLaw has reported.

Justice Subramonium Prasad has found fault with the prosecution’s observation that every member in an unlawful assembly can be accused of murder, which according to him, was based on “vague evidence and general allegations”.

Therefore, he said the prosecution’s applicability of Section 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Indian Penal Code (IPC), specifically read with Section 302 (punishment for murder), cannot be done on the basis of “vague evidence and general allegations”.

The court was dealing with 11 bail applications in connection with the murder of a constable and injuries caused to a senior official during the Delhi riots on Wazirabad main road in February last year. While it had granted bail to five accused last month, it reserved its orders on six others. On Tuesday, September 14, the court passed orders in four of them, granting bail to two accused and rejecting bail to two others. Those granted bail are namely Shahnawaz and Mohd Ayyub. The court rejected the bail pleas of Sadiq and Irshad Ali.

Ruling on the bail pleas, the court said, “It is the Constitutional duty of the Court to ensure that there is no arbitrary deprivation of personal liberty in the face of excess of State power. Bail is the rule and jail is the exception, and Courts must exercise their jurisdiction to uphold the tenets of personal liberty, subject to rightful regulation of the same by validly enacted legislation.”

Justice Prasad further said, “It is egregious and against the principles enshrined in our Constitution to allow an accused to remain languishing behind bars during the pendency of the trial.”

On the issue of prosecution linking every person in the crowd (which it termed as “unlawful assembly”) to the murder of head constable, the court said, “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 unlawful assembly inhabits a common intention to accomplish the unlawful common object.”

As for the case, it was based on an FIR (first information report) filed by a constable who was at the scene on Wazirabad main road when the murder of the constable Rattan Lal took place. According to him, around 1 pm on that particular day protestors were gathering on Wazirabad main road with lathis, baseball bats, stones, among others. The protestors did not heed to the instructions of the police officers posted there, the constable said.

The police, according to the constable who filed the FIR, said used mild force and gas shells to disperse the crowd. It was around this time, Rattan Lal was beaten up by violent protestors. They also attacked DCP Shahdara and ACP Gokulpuri. They were shifted to hospital, Rattan Lal succumbed to his injuries while others sustained grievous injuries, the constable added.