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Ishrat Jahan granted bail in UAPA riots case

Ishrat Jahan granted bail in UAPA riots case
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New Delhi: A Delhi court on Monday granted bail to former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan in the UAPA case related to the "main conspiracy" behind the February 2020 north-east Delhi riots — making her the sixth accused in the case to have been granted the relief now, and the first accused to have got this relief from a Sessions court.

As Ishrat's family members rejoiced, her lawyers have said that she is likely to be released today (Tuesday). Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat pronounced in court on Monday that the bail had been allowed.

The case in which Ishrat has been granted bail is FIR 59/2020, which is being investigated by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police for allegations under stringent sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other serious offences.

Ishrat's lawyer, advocate Pradeep Teotia, had argued that there was not an "iota of evidence" implicating Ishrat in the larger conspiracy case and went ahead to say that her case was on a better footing than those of her co-accused.

Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad opposed the bail plea and argued that Ishrat was allegedly in touch with the co-accused, who allegedly planned the riots. The prosecution alleged that she might have something to do with funding the riots — saying that her lawyers had not addressed this specific allegation.

Significantly, the court while granting bail to Ishrat, noted that it is not in any way discharging her in the case and that there were still IPC allegations against her that needed to be tested at trial. But making it clear in its order, the court said that the police could not show how Ishrat's actions were part of the alleged conspiracy.

The court said that Ishrat was not the one who had conceived of the chakka-jam form of protests; neither was she part of various groups like Muslim Students of JNU or Jamia Coordination Committee or any of the four WhatsApp groups accused of inciting the violence.

ASJ Rawat added that neither had Ishrat attended any meeting called by members of any of the aforementioned groups. The court also noted that as per the chargesheet and witness statements, Ishrat had also not attended any of the alleged conspiratorial meetings in January and February. The court went on to add that Ishrat was responsible for organising the anti-CAA protest at Khureji but also noted that she was not in north-east Delhi when the riots broke out and neither did she direct the incitement of any violence specifically.

The court went on to say that Ishrat was accused of giving "provocative speeches and saying that the government was against Muslims". The court added that witness statements showed that she was mobilising locals. It said: "She was giving provocative speeches which contributed towards the environment which might have motivated others to lead to violence in North-East Delhi."

The court also said that there were allegations that Ishrat had received around Rs 5.41 lakh, which was allegedly used to set up the Khureji protest site and to allegedly purchase weapons.

In its ruling, the court said: "The entire conspiracy as spelt out in the charge-sheet, as far as it ascribes to the role of Ishrat Jahan, who is a woman, for the limited purpose of bail application on a prima facie considerations, persuades this court to allow the present application for bail despite the embargoes contained in CrPC and UAPA."

The court directed that Ishrat be released on a bail bond of Rs 50,000 and two sureties of the like amount. It added that Ishrat cannot leave Delhi without the court's explicit permission.

Ishrat was accused in another riots-related FIR from the Jagatpuri area but was granted bail in that case last March. With the bail in this case, she will be able to step out of the Mandoli Jail.

After the riots ended, the police registered this case and claimed that the anti-CAA protesters had incited the riots, following which over 15 anti-CAA activists, student leaders and opposition politicians were arrested in the case and charged with allegedly planning the riots.

While crucial deficiencies have already been pointed out in the chargesheet filed by the Special Cell against these accused, the UAPA sections have prevented many from securing bail - with only five others having secured bail so far - that too from the Delhi High Court.

Of these, Jamia Coordination Committee member Safoora Zargar was one, who approached the high court for bail while she was pregnant and in jail. The police said it would not oppose the plea on "humanitarian grounds".

JNU student leaders Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, along with Jamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha were also granted bail by the Delhi High Court last year - in scathing orders examining why the allegations against them are not strong enough to deny bail. Significantly, the court looked at the allegations and ruled that the prosecution had shown nothing else but that the accused had organised protests and that this cannot amount to an act of terror.

In a separate order, the high court had also granted bail to Faizan Khan, a SIM card seller arrested in the case.

However, several other activists like Umar Khalid, Khalid Saifi, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Meeran Haider, Sharjeel Imam and others remain in jail.

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