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'Rightly Invoked': Delhi Court Rejects Devangana Kalita's Bail Plea in UAPA Case

The court's order, by the Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat, is worded very similarly to its order in the rejection of Natasha Narwal's bail.

New Delhi: A court here has rejected the bail plea of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student and Pinjra Tod member Devangana Kalita, booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in a northeast Delhi riots case, saying provisions of the anti-terror law have been “rightly invoked” in the case against her.

The court’s order, by the Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat, in this refusal, is worded very similarly to its order in the rejection of Natasha Narwal’s bail. Kalita and Narwal were arrested for allegedly being part of a premeditated conspiracy behind the riots in February 2020. They are both members of Pinjra Tod.

The court said the “pre-planned vociferous agitation in the name of protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act,” and other “resultant activities of confrontation and violence leading to riots,” would show that it was meant to cause or intended to cause disaffection against India.

The court said in a case of conspiracy of such a large scale, “not having a video clip was not so vital as generally, a conspiracy, by its very nature, is hatched in secrecy and not having video clips of such a conspiracy was obvious rather than doubtful.”

The court also said the fact that Kalita was not present at the site was not essential for establishing her role.

“In the present case, the presence of the accused is established over a period of time. Thus, on the perusal of the chargesheet and accompanying documents, for the limited purpose of bail, I am of the opinion that the allegations against accused Devangana Kalita are prima facie true,” the judge said in his order.

The court said the alleged conspiracy, beginning from December 2019 when roads were “intentionally blocked roads to cause inconvenience and disruption of the supply of essential services, resulting in violence, and then leading to the February 2020 riots would be covered by the definition of a “terrorist act”.”

The court added that while all citizens have the ride to oppose any legislation, “it is not an absolute right, but subject to reasonable restrictions.”

Also read: ‘Invocation of Sedition Laws, UAPA Against CAA Protesters Illegal,’ Say Activists

“The contention of the counsel for the accused that the sanction was given in haste is not for this court to give an opinion on. What is important is that an independent authority has given its opinion about the applicability of UAPA in the present case,” it said.

The court further said even if it took the arguments of the accused’s counsel at face value that only one side of the road was blocked, it would still be a complete blockage, preventing ingress and egress of the people who were surrounded and for whom panic and terror was created.

“Hence, the provisions of UAPA have been rightly invoked in the present case,” it said.

The court, in its order, quoted extensively from the National Investigating Agency vs. Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, (2019), case in which the Supreme Court laid down precedents for arrest and detention under UAPA that are often criticised as falling foul of Article 21.

It said the reliance by Kalita’s counsel on video clips or any other material not mentioned in the chargesheet was of no assistance.

In the order, the court said the references to various other persons, who according to the counsel for the accused had allegedly given incendiary speeches in the run-up to the Delhi polls or later on, was not as such germane to the bail application since the court was considering the bail plea of Kalita and not of others, particularly those who are not accused in the present case.

The court also said that the “flurry of calls” between the accused and other persons who were not physically present with each other showed a connection between them.

The court added that a linkage between the accused with other accused persons was shown by the prosecution.

It further said that if it looks at the statement of the protected witnesses under Section 164 (examination by magistrate) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), it finds sufficient incriminating material against Kalita.

According to LiveLaw, the court said:

“Devangana Kalita with other accused mobilized the women of Seelampur Protest site and occupied the Jafrabad Metro Station blocking the Main 66 Foota Road. She distributed chilly powder to the women and instigated them to attack police personnel and start riots”

Advocate Adit S. Pujari, appearing for Kalita, asked why would the accused, being a Hindu, organise violence and riots by instigating Muslims against her own community.

Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad, appearing for the Delhi Police, opposed the bail plea, saying Kalita had allegedly conspired with others to gather women protesters from Jahangirpuri, who resorted to violence.

(With PTI inputs)