Delhi HC Grants Devangana Kalita of Pinjra Tod Bail, Says No Proof of Instigating Riots

The court said that Kalita satisfied the triple test for releasing a person on bail and that the purpose of incarceration during trial cannot be "punitive".

New Delhi: In a blow to Delhi Police which stoutly opposed her release despite having no evidence to link her to any act of violence, the Delhi high court on Tuesday morning granted bail to Pinjra Tod member and Jawaharlal Nehru University student Devangana Kalita in a Delhi riots-related case. The FIR in the case – No. 50/2020 – accused her of instigating people from Jaffrabad, where there was an anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protest, to join the riots.

A single-judge bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait granted Kalita bail. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal had appeared on her behalf, and argued that the trial court had only said that Kalita participated in anti-CAA protests and not that she instigated any violence, LiveLaw reported.

The bail is subject to Kalita furnishing a personal bond of Rs 25,000 with one surety of the like amount to the satisfaction of trial court, if not required in any other case.

The court said that Kalita satisfied the triple test for releasing a person on bail. In his order, Justice Kait said,

“…no prejudice would be caused to the Respondent’s investigation by grant of relief to the petitioner, and she would be prevented from suffering further unnecessary harassment, humiliation, and unjustified detention. Moreover, persons similarly placed as the petitioner, as per documents placed on record by the investigating agency, have not been arrested by the investigating agency in the subject FIR, and as such, the continued custody of the petitioner in the subject FIR would serve no purpose.”

The judge said he had looked at the inner case diary given to him in a sealed cover, and that too did not prove Kalita had instigated anyone to riot. She was present at a “peaceful agitation”, which is a “fundamental right”.

“…though her presence is seen in peaceful agitation, which is fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India, however, (Delhi Police) failed to produce any material that she in her speech instigated women of particular community or gave hatred speech due to which precious life of a young man has been sacrificed and property damaged…there is no such evidence which establishes that the alleged offence has taken place on the act done by the petitioner, except statements recorded under section 164 Cr.P.C. much belatedly, though, those witnesses were allegedly remain present at the spot throughout,” the court noted.

Also read: From COVID-19 To Delhi Riots – Choosing Scapegoats

Justice Kait had earlier asked the police to show him videos of Kalita making ‘instigating’ speeches during the riots. The police had said that they did not have any such videos.

Sibal argued that since the chargesheet had been filed, Kalita no longer need to be kept in jail for the investigation. There was also no proof to suggest she could intimidate witnesses or that she is a flight risk.

Appearing for the police, additional solicitor general S.V. Raju had opposed the bail plea, saying that the FIR invoked serious charges including murder and attempt to murder, and thus was not the same as another Delhi riots case in which she had already secured bail. The bench, however, was not convinced by the ASG’s arguments and said, “I find no substance in arguments of learned ASG and cases relied upon are no help in the facts and circumstances of the present case.”

Kalita has been named in four FIRs related to the Delhi riots, including one invoking the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. A Delhi court had last week dismissed Kalita’s bail plea in the UAPA case, though her lawyer had argued that the Act had been wrongly invoked and no case was made out under it.

Kalita was arrested on May 23 in a case related to rioting in northeast Delhi. While the court had granted her bail the next day in the case, she was arrested by the Crime Branch in connection with a murder case related to the riots.

On May 30, she was arrested in a case related to violence in old Delhi’s Daryaganj area in December last year. The court had granted bail to her in the case.

Also read: Chronicle of Crimes Foretold: Delhi Riots’ FIR 59/2020 and the ‘Meerut Conspiracy’ Parable

She was rearrested and slapped with the UAPA in early June for her alleged role in inciting the communal riots.

Pinjra Tod was founded in 2015 with an aim to make hostels and paying guest accommodations less restrictive for women students. Another student activist from the women’s organisation, Natasha Narwal.

Several civil society groups and women’s organisations have condemned the arrests of Kalita, Narwal and other rights activists and anti-CAA protestors in Delhi riots cases. It has been alleged that the Delhi police is protecting those responsible, including senior BJP leaders who gave incendiary speeches, and is instead going after those who dissented against the CAA.