The Additional Sessions Judge, Tis Hazari Courts on Wednesday heard the bail applications of 15 persons who were arrested by Daryaganj police on December 21 on allegations of violence during anti-CAA protests.
The hearing began with Public Prosecutor, Pankaj Bhatia taking the court through the charges and alluding to the incident as a criminal conspiracy. Judge Kamini Lau interjected and said this could not be called criminal as people have a democratic right to protest. She further stated that people were walking from Seelampur, and as they moved on others kept joining in. This would be a civil matter at best. On being asked about the investigation, the crime branch informed the court that the 15 accused had not been identified through the footage that is available with them till now. Requests have been made with media channels to also assist the crime branch by sharing footage from their cameras. Judge Lau enquired about CCTV footage available from the DCP office and was informed that the crime branch had not yet received the same. The judge also asked about the medical reports of the accused.
Senior advocate Rebecca John appearing for the 15 accused said that they had been in jail for 19 days now. Judge Lau, however, said that will be looked into but expressed serious concerns over the manner in which public property had been damaged. "This is not a British regime...They (protesters) have no business to be throwing stones and damaging property belonging to our country. We also used to protest as students but today when they (students) get a call for protests, they think everything is acceptable." While John agreed with her and stated that everyone had the right to protest but no one had the right to vandalise, the judge reiterated that she was not impressed by the damage that had been caused to public property. Judge Lau also said that such incidents cause inconvenience to the common man. John responded by saying it was the common man who was out on the streets for these protests.
Senior Advocate Rebecca John submitted that Section 436 IPC, one of the non-bailable offences in FIR, was not attracted as no damage was caused to any dwelling unit or a place of worship even as per the police case. She then submitted that the the other two non bailable offences (Ss 353, 332 IPC) prescribed terms of 2 and 3 years respectively. Hence, there was no requirement of mandatory arrest, as per the SC dictum in Arnesh Kumar case which held that arrest for offences with less than 7 years imprisonment should be made only in exceptional circumstances.
The judge then asked what was the guarantee that vandalism of the nature previously alluded to would not be repeated if the accused were allowed out on bail, and asked John for a solution. To this, the senior advocate responded by referring to the police's version and how the FIR was filed after arrest at 1am after which minors were kept in jail overnight. She went on to submit that the accused were not responsible for the vandalism, which she could claim assuredly after her team had carried out extensive research. The judge interjected to say that was the job of the police to probe and find out. John went on to state that these 15 people had no political affiliation and had been picked up from different places, while some of them were even looking to go home.
After hearing these submissions, Judge Lau again stated that everyone has a right to protest, but within the parameters of the Constitution. She then asked the crime branch to submit the Medico Legal Certificates of all accused as well as CCTV footage and the findings from the same by 3pm. While some reports were submitted, MLCs of some weren't and some others lacked clarity. Looking at this the judge posted the matter for tomorrow, instead of taking it up at 4pm today, as was the initial intention.
On December 23, Tis Hazari Metropolitan Magistrate had rejected their bail applications.