Two members of the women's collective 'Pinjra Tod', Devangana Kalita (30) and Natasha Narwal (32), who were arrested by Delhi Police on Saturday (May 23) in relation to Jafrabad protests against CAA/NRC in February, were granted bail by the Duty Metropolitan Magistrate (MM) after a special hearing at Mandoli Jail on Sunday (May 24).
However, they were also remanded to 2 days' custody of the Delhi Police Crime Branch in another FIR lodged in relation to riots that erupted in North East Delhi on February 24.
The two women were first arrested in relation to FIR No. 48/2020 registered by Jafrabad police for offences under IPC sections such as 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 341(wrongful restraint), and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty).
The Duty Magistrate, Ajeet Narayan, noted that the only non-bailable offence in the FIR was Section 353 IPC, which was not prima facie attracted.
"From the perusal of FIR and case file, prima facie the offence u/s 353 is not maintainable", the judge noted.
He also observed that the accused were merely protesting against the NRC and CAA without violence, and have strong roots in the society and are well educated.
"Facts of the case reveal that accused were merely protesting against the NRC and CAA and accused did not indulge into any violence. Also, the accused have strong roots in society and they are well educated. Accused are ready to cooperate with the Police regarding the investigation".
The judge also took note of the threat of COVID-19 pandemic.
"Also, considering the situation that accused are vulnerable to current pandemic of COVID-19, this Court is not inclined to give PC remand of the accused and application of the Police remand is declined", read the order.
However, this relief was short-lived. As the Judge orally communicated that he would grant bail with regard to the present case, the Investigating Officer from Delhi Police Crime Branch, R K Puram, immediately moved an application seeking their 14 days custody in relation to another FIR. That was FIR No. 50/2020, registered for offences under Sections 302(murder), Section 307 (attempt to murder), Section 120B(criminal conspiracy) etc of the IPC, offences under Arms Act and also the Prevention of Destruction of Public Property Act.
At first, the Magistrate granted permission to Inspector from Crime Branch to interrogate them for 15 minutes, and make formal arrest, if found necessary.
After that, the Crime Branch made formal arrest and sought for 14 days custody, stating that it was necessary to know the conspiracy behind the incident and the identities of co-accused.
Advocates Adit Pujari, Tusharika Mattoo and Kunal Negis, appearing for the women, opposed the custody application stating that accused had been implicated in the second FIR "malafidely". It was pointed out that there was no justification for arrest, given the nature of the offences alleged against them, and that too at a time when attempts were being made to decongest jails across the country on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Considering that the investigation in this case was in its initial stages, the Judge directed their custody to be given to the Crime Branch for two days. It was further ordered that their medical examination would be conducted as per rules, and that Narwal and Kalita would be produced before concerned Court again on Tuesday, May 26.
Police alleged that the two women were part of the anti-CAA sit-in protest held under Jafrabad Metro station on February 22-23. BJP leader Kapil Mishra had publicly stated that his followers will clear the protesters if the police did not act. Riots broke out in the region a day later.
"Pinjra Tod", founded in 2015 by, started as a movement against curfews in girls hostels and gradually emerged as a collective taking up causes related to women's emancipation. Kalita ,an MPhil student at JNU's Centre for Women's Studies and Narwal, a PhD student at the Centre for Historical Studies, are its founding members.