Delhi HC grants bail to 5 in 2020 riots case
The Delhi High Court on Friday granted bail to five people accused in the murder of Head Constable Ratan Lal during the 2020 northeast Delhi riots. The court said the accused cannot be forced to languish behind bars for a long period of time without a trial. Lal was killed by a mob on February 24, 2020, during one of Delhi's worst riots ever.
Who all have been granted bail?
Justice Subramonium Prasad granted bail to Furkan, Arif, Shadab Ahmad, Suvaleen and Tabassum. Four of them have spent 16-17 months in jail. Meanwhile, Tabassum, a mother of two, was arrested 11 months ago, The Indian Express reported. It has been alleged that they were among protesters who had assembled near the Chand Bagh area and 25 Futa Road on the day of Lal's murder.
'Bail is the rule, jail is the exception'
The court asked the five accused to furnish a personal bond of Rs. 35,000 with one surety each. Further, they cannot leave Delhi without the prior permission of the court, it told them. "Bail is the rule and jail is the exception," the court noted.
'Right to protest is fundamental in a democracy'
Justice Prasad observed the right to protest is fundamental in a democracy, adding people shouldn't be punished for it. "The sole act of protesting should not be employed as a weapon to justify the incarceration," he said. "It is the constitutional duty of the court to ensure that there is no arbitrary deprivation of personal liberty in the face of excess of state power."
Court said it must look at both sides of case
The court also cited the Supreme Court's directions for the judgment. "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."
Prosecution had opposed the bail pleas
The prosecution, on the other hand, argued that the attack on the police was pre-planned and it is a complicated case. Additional Solicitor General (ASG) SV Raju opposed the bail plea, saying, "In grievous offense, particularly punishable with capital punishment, bail should not be given." He told the court that just because the accused have not been identified, "they cannot be exonerated."
Over 50 died in last year's Delhi riots
In February 2020, violence broke out between supporters and protesters of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act. More than 50 people died and around 200 were injured in the clashes, the worst in the capital city since the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The Indian Parliament had passed the citizenship law in 2019 amid widespread protests against it across the country.