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Delhi Court Rejects Natasha Narwal's Bail Plea in UAPA Case

The judge claimed that in this case, charges under UAPA have been rightly invoked.

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Thursday dismissed the bail plea of Jawaharlal Nehru University student and Pinjra Tod member Natasha Narwal, booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in a North-East Delhi riots case. The court said the allegations against her were prima facie true and provisions of the anti-terror law have been “rightly invoked” in the case.

Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage) was founded in 2015 with an aim to make hostels and paying guest accommodations less restrictive for women students.

In September last year, a Delhi court had granted Narwal bail in another riots-related case, saying that the Delhi Police had no evidence to prove that she was involved in instigating any violence.

While rejecting Narwal’s bail plea in the UAPA case, Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat said in a case of conspiracy of such a large scale, not having a video was not vital as generally conspiracy, by its very nature, is “hatched in secrecy” and not having videos of such a conspiracy was obvious rather than doubtful.

The court said in a case of conspiracy, even the presence of an accused at a site was not sine qua non (an essential condition) for establishing his or her role. “In the present case, the presence of the accused is established over a period of time. Thus, on the perusal of the charge sheet and accompanying documents, for the limited purpose of the bail, I am of the opinion that allegations against accused Natasha Narwal are prima facie true,” the judge said in his order.

“The entire conspiracy beginning from December 2019 of intentionally blocking roads to cause inconvenience and causing disrupting (sic) of supplies of services essential to the life of community of India resulting in violence with various means and then leading to the February incident with the focus being targeted blocking of roads at mixed population areas and creating panic and attack on police personnel with facade of women protesters in front and leading to riots would be covered by the definition of terrorist act,” the court continued.

There is a linkage shown by the prosecution between accused with other accused persons, the court said adding that if it looked at the statement of protected witnesses under sections 164 (examination by magistrate) CrPC, it finds sufficient incriminating material against Narwal.

Also read: A Message for Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal and All the Members of Pinjra Tod

The court noted there was no gainsaying the fact that all the citizens of the country under the Constitution have the right and freedom to protest including the right to oppose any legislation, however, it is not an absolute right but subject to reasonable restrictions. It said the reliance by Natasha’s counsel on videos or any other material outside the charge-sheet was of no assistance.

During the hearing, advocate Adit S. Pujari, appearing for Narwal, had asked why the accused, being a Hindu, wouold organise violence and riots by instigating Muslims against her own community. The police’s special public prosecutor Amit Prasad opposed the bail plea saying Narwal had allegedly conspired with others to gather women protestors from Jahangirpuri who resorted to violence.

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

“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.

“Thus, pre-planned vociferous agitation in the guise of Citizenship Amendment Bill coupled with other resultant activities of confrontation and violence leading to riots would show it was meant to cause or intended to cause disaffection against India,” the court said.

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

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

It noted that as per the prosecution, there were messages on DPSG (Delhi Protest Support Group) Whatsapp Group, particularly on February 22, 23 and 24 last year, allegedly showing the role of Pinjra Tod.

Also read: BJP Plans ‘Rath Yatra’ in Delhi’s Riot-Affected Areas to Seek Donations for Ram Temple

“There are messages of the relevant contemporaneous period which shows that there was opposition to road block plans of Pinjra Tod and reference to a violent protest by them… It was also messaged that local women protesters were disagreeing with the roadblock plan and there was a specific suggestion that Pinjra Tod is inciting violence and there would be effort to stop them at Seelampur, Jafrabad.

“In fact, there was a reference to the accused regarding the distribution of Red Mirchi powder to women for attacking police and paramilitary of dated February 23, 2020, and thus, there is contemporaneous record which cannot be wished away at this stage of bail,” the court further said

It said that February 24, 2020, onwards there was a flurry of calls between accused and other persons who were not physically present with each other but which showed connection between them and many of them coming together at a place pointing to circumstances suggesting conspiracy

It further said the contention that accused had no role in raising funds for riots or that acid related injury in the riots were not within the jurisdiction Police Station Jafrabad or injuries due to lal mirch (red chilli) powder were not shown anywhere in any document was misplaced as firstly, other accused persons in the case were alleged to have done their part in the conspiracy and the conspiracy had to be read as a whole and not piecemeal.

While the judge in this case has agreed with the police’s version of events and denied Narwal bail, several other Delhi riots cases have seen judges questioning the police’s investigation and bringing up serious lapses. In one case, for instance, the Delhi police filed UAPA charges against an individual for selling a SIM card without conducting the required verification.

Several rights groups, both national and international, have argued that the Delhi Police under the Union home ministry is targeting peaceful anti-CAA protesters in Delhi riots cases, while ignoring the role of Bharatiya Janata Party and Sangh parivar leaders who made public incendiary speeches and issued threats on social media. A number of these groups have issued statements in support of Narwal and Devangana Kalita, also a member of Pinjra Told charged in the case, as well as other arrested student activists.

(With PTI inputs)