New Delhi: A Delhi court has dismissed a bail application of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) student Asif Iqbal Tanha, arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, in a case related to the communal violence in northeast Delhi in February.
Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat said the statements of the protected witnesses in the case reflected the role of many accused persons including accused Tanha regarding the protest sites and how everything was being planned.
“The statements clearly point out the role of the accused Asif lqbal Tanha as also other co-accused persons and various actions taken by them in pursuance of the conspiracy. He was part of a conspiracy for doing chakka-jam leading to the riots. His name comes out in the statements of the witnesses as one of the main coordinators in the entire conspiracy,” the court said in its order passed on September 2.
The 24-year-old student was arrested on May 19 and has been in judicial custody since May 27.
The order further said the details of the statements of these witnesses are not spelt-out in detail as the case was at the stage of investigation.
Their merits or credibility can’t be gone into at the present stage. Considering the statement of such witnesses regarding the role of the accused Asif Iqbal Tanha and other accused persons whose conduct is also highlighted by various statements, I have no hesitation to hold that there are reasonable ground for believing that accusation against accused are prima facie true…, the judge said in his order.
The court said that the freedom of speech and expression under the Constitution of India granted Tanha the power to oppose any legislation and to peacefully protest and it was subjected to reasonable restrictions.
Thus, what has to be seen is the context, manner of expressing the dissent and various acts associated with it. It has to be some acts in pursuance of a conspiracy by various means, it said.
The court said acts threatening the unity of India or for striking terror in people, to cause or likely to cause death or injuries to persons or loss of or damage to property and for raising funds for the purpose would cover it under section 15 (terrorist acts) and 18 (recruiting for terrorist act) of the anti-terror law.
“Thus, the provision of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, has been rightly invoked in the present case,” it said.
It said since the present case was of a conspiracy resulting in riots, there were various individuals, organisations and groups which are inter-linked and thus, the statements or acts by the other co-conspirators in furtherance of common object of the conspiracy will be admissible against Tanha.
The statements and evidence will have to be read in entirety since it is a case of conspiracy. Moreover, the assertion that the accused himself physically and directly did not resort to violence as understood in common parlance would not be germane in the context of various acts committed by different individuals including accused in the conspiracy of riots, it said.
During the hearing, advocate Siddharth Aggarwal and Sowjhanya Shankaran, appearing for Tanha, said he has been falsely implicated in the case.
Umar Khalid has been mentioned in the case but he has not been arrested yet, Aggarwal said.
He further argued that invocation of UAPA against Tanha was bad in law as there was no unlawful association or terrorist organisation with which he was associated.
Tanha was not a member of Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC) WhatsApp group till February 24, and therefore, the messages on February 23 regarding the alleged planning of riots were not relevant to him, Aggarwal claimed.
There has been no recovery of money trail and no payment has been ascribed to him from any objectionable source, the lawyer said.
He further claimed that Tanha had no connection with the Bhim Army and his premises were not searched and there was no evidence collected against him.
No incriminating material or arms or ammunition was recovered from him, Aggarwal claimed.
Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad, appearing for the state, opposed the bail plea, saying Tanha was one of the conspirators and involved with other accused persons in the conspiracy and there was sufficient material for establishing a prima facie case against him.
The public prosecutor further said there was a conspiracy hatched to cause communal riots in Delhi and it was multi-layered and deep-rooted.
Prasad claimed the conspiracy began quite early and Tanha was coordinating in reference to the Student Islamic Organisation and JCC.
The communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.