New Delhi: Delhi’s Patiala house court on Thursday denied bail to 27-year-old Safoora Zargar. The research scholar from Jamia Millia Islamia is currently in judicial custody in connection with her alleged role in the Delhi riots conspiracy case, which is being investigated by the Delhi Police’s Special Cell.
While dismissing the bail petition, Judge Dharmendra Rana said:
“When you choose to play with embers, you cannot blame the wind to have carried the spark a bit too far and spread the fire. The acts and inflammatory speeches of the co-conspirators are admissible u/s 10 of the Indian Evidence even against the applicant/accused.”
While making a case for bail, her counsels Ritesh Dhar Dubey and Trideep Pais told the court that the investigating agency was creating a false narrative to implicate innocent students who do not approve of the government’s policies. They also submitted that the prosecution’s charge that Zargar delivered an inflammatory speech on February 23, 2020, at Chand Bagh was inaccurate. Her lawyers claimed that she had visited Chand Bagh for a short while on that day but that was before the violence had started. They also told the court that she had delivered a speech in Khureji on February 23, but it wasn’t inflammatory or provocative in any manner.
While making its arguments against granting of bail, the prosecution submitted a seizure memo relating to FIR 101/2020 registered by the Khajoori Khas Police Station. The seizures in FIR 101/2020 of Police Station Khajuri Khas include materials like stones, bricks, crates of glass bottles, and 3 sling shots that were reportedly found in front of suspended Aam Aadmi Party leader Tahir Hussain’s house.
The reference to evidence collected in another case, pertaining to another FIR, during Zargar’s bail hearing came as a surprise, given that the student was not arrested in FIR 101/2020 but 59/2020.
‘Prima facie evidence to show there was conspiracy’
The judge, while pronouncing his order, also referred to statements made by eye witnesses and a WhatsApp chat that had been placed on record. The judge held that “there is prima facie evidence to show that there was a conspiracy to at least block the roads (chakka jam).”
“As per the provisions of sections 339 of the Indian Penal Code, causing wrongful restrain to even a single individual is a penal offence. Section 141 clause 3 provides that any assembly of five or more persons is designated as ‘unlawful’, if its common object is to commit any offence.”
The judge also refused to entertain the defence counsel’s argument that Safoora was liable only for her individual acts and speeches and the acts of other members of the group could not be read against her. The judge held,
“In my considered opinion, if there is prima facie evidence of existence of a conspiracy, the evidence of acts and statements made by one of the conspirators in furtherance of the common object is admissible against all…Therefore mere absence at the spot or absence of any overt act would not help the cause of the applicant/accused.”
Zargar’s lawyers also appealed for bail on humanitarian grounds, given that she is 21 weeks pregnant and reportedly suffering from Poly Cystic Ovarian Disorder. They told the court that her condition had become all the more vulnerable because of the COVID-19 crisis and pointed out that inmates in all three of Delhi’s jails had contracted the coronavirus infection. While dismissing her bail plea, the judge asked the concerned jail superintendent to provide adequate medical aid and assistance to the accused.
Speaking to The Wire, Zargar’s counsel Ritesh said, “Ms Zargar’s family was hopeful that court would give due consideration to health risks to Ms Zargar in Tihar due to COVID-19. Ms Zargar will consider legal remedies available to her in due course of time.”
Safoora Zargar was arrested by the Special Cell on April 10, in connection with FIR 48/2020 filed in the Jaffrabad road-block case. She was granted bail in the case on April 13 but on the same day, her name was added to FIR 59/2020 and she was arrested again.
Seemi Pasha is an independent multimedia journalist based in Delhi. She can be reached at seemi_pasha on twitter.