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New Delhi: The court of the executive magistrate on Monday (July 4) ordered the release of Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad, who had been arrested from a Jaipur hotel on the intervening night of July 1 and 2.
Azad was arrested along with 21 others under Section 151 of Criminal Procedure Code and spent two days in judicial custody, The Hindu reported. The police claim the “preventive” arrest was made since Section 144 is in force after tailor Kanhaiya Lal’s murder in Udaipur.
The Bhim Army chief had gone to Jaipur to support the protest called by Covid Health Assistants, who want permanent positions. Activist Dharmendra Kumar told the Indian Express that the Bhim Army members were arrested to stop their involvement in the protest. “They were planning to support CHA on July 2. Jaipur police was also told that if the government does not want the protest to be held now, it can be postponed. Alternatively, a memorandum can be submitted to a government official. However, the police arrived around 12:30 am and picked up Azad and others,” he said.
Rights activist in the city have alleged that Azad’s arrest was illegal and due process was not followed. “Mr. Azad was sent to custody without getting any opportunity to be heard or to file a proper bail application through his lawyer,” The Hindu quoted Kumar as saying.
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties issues a statement condemning Azad’s arrest and questioning the process. “What was the urgency to arrest them in the middle of the night? The other 21 accused, all Dalits who were with Azad in the hotel, were also dragged out from their rooms and all 22 were arrested under CrPC section 151,” PUCL said.
“It is our understanding that the use of CrPC section 151 to arrest Azad makes a mockery of the freedom of speech and expression. It is worth repeating that the police under the said section have the power to arrest on ‘knowing of the design to commit any cognizable offence’ but of which there was no evidence, instead they were in a dialogue with the police. It is clear that the police are exercising their unbridled power of preventive detention and denying Azad his constitutional right to protest,” the statement continued.