The Delhi High Court granted bail to five persons accused in connection with the murder of Head Constable Ratan Lal and causing head injuries to a North-East Delhi Deputy Commissioner of Police during the February 2020 riots. The high court observed that it was the court's Constitutional Duty to ensure that there was no "arbitrary deprivation of personal liberty in the face of excess of State power".
The high court on Friday granted bail to five of the 11 accused in this matter. In a largely common bail order, the high court pointed out that "bail is the rule and jail is the exception, and Courts must exercise their jurisdiction to uphold the tenets of personal liberty, subject to rightful regulation of the same...".
"In view of the facts and circumstances of the cases, without commenting on the merits of the matter, this Court is of the opinion that the Petitioner cannot be made to languish behind bars for a longer period of time, and that the veracity of the allegations leveled against him can be tested during the trial," the high court said while granting bail.
Justice Subramonium Prasad had reserved the order after hearing detailed arguments by counsels appearing for the accused and Additional Solicitor General (ASG) SV Raju and Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad appearing for Delhi police.
"By granting bail to the accused, the judge has upheld the cannons of justice in appreciating and giving a decisive verdict on false prosecutions and persecution of innocent persons," counsel of one of the accused Tanveer Ahmed Mir said.
Dissent occupies a fundamental stature in a democratic polity
Dissent occupies a fundamental stature in a democratic polity, the high court said. "The sole act of protesting should not be employed as a weapon to justify the incarceration of those who exercise this right," the order pertaining to two of the accused read.
Justice Subramonium Prasad reasoned that the Supreme Court has time and again held that Courts need to be alive to both ends of the spectrum, i.e. the duty of the Courts to ensure proper enforcement of criminal law, and the duty of the Courts to ensure that the law does not become a tool for targeted harassment."
With respect to Shadab Ahmed, one of the five who was granted bail today, the high court said that just because he was one of the organisers of the protest as well as being in touch with others who participated in the protest, was not sufficient enough grounds to justify that he was involved in the pre-planning of the alleged incident.
"It is to be noted that the right to protest and express dissent is a right which occupies a fundamental stature in a democratic polity, and therefore, the sole act of protesting should not be employed as a weapon to justify the incarceration of those who are exercising this right," the high court order read.
The high court gave its order on five of the 11 pleas filed in connection with this case. The order on the remaining six pleas will be pronounced sometime next week.
During arguments, the high court had queried on what the parameters should be while granting bail in a case pertaining to unlawful assembly read with murder. Considering the large number of people arrested in this matter and the likelihood of different punishments they would get depending on their role in the crime, Justice Subramonium Prasad wondered whether it was fair to curtail the liberty of all the accused till the completion of the trial.
Counsels appearing for the accused argued that the mere presence of their client at the scene of the incident did not prove their complicity in the crime. "Their behaviour and conduct have to be seen...When there is a long gathering of people, it is difficult to determine who was there with the common object and who would just happen to be there but could not be said to have a common object..." senior advocate Salman Khurshid argued. "The Court has to distinguish the case of those who may be in the group but cannot be attributed of a common object from those who assembled with a common object," he submitted.
Rebutting the arguments, ASG Raju had submitted that it was a "clear case" where bail was not warranted. "If an accused is seen and identified in a video it is a plus-point. However, the mere absence in the video will not exonerate the accused of the charges," Raju argued.
On the issue of delay in recording of witness statements, Raju had argued that circumstances of the time when the incident happened must be taken into account.
"People were terrified to come forward, identify witnesses...Corona. It is a matter of trial if the evidence is to be believed or not," Raju had said.
Updated On: 2021-09-03T15:45:24+05:30