Hot Off The PressNews

UN experts called on India to immediately release human rights defenders who have been arrested for protesting against changes to the nation’s citizenship laws.

“These defenders, many of them students, appear to have been arrested simply because they exercised their right to denounce and protest against the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), and their arrest seems clearly designed to send a chilling message to India’s vibrant civil society that criticism of government policies will not be tolerated,” the experts said.

One of the most alarming cases concerns pregnant Delhi student Safoora Zargar, who was detained for over two months having allegedly been kept in conditions equating to solitary confinement, denied regular contact with her family and legal representative, and having not been provided adequate medical care or diet. She was finally granted bail on 23 June 2020, in her sixth month of pregnancy, on humanitarian grounds.

The CAA provides expedited and simplified access to citizenship for people from specific religious minorities from several neighbouring countries but it excludes Muslims. Its adoption in December 2019 provoked nationwide protests by Indians from diverse faiths – including Hindus – who believe it violates the secular foundations of India’s constitution.

Many of the 11 individual cases include serious allegations of human rights violations, several relating to due process failings during arrest and detention, as well as allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

“Authorities should immediately release all human rights defenders who are currently being held in pre-trial detention without sufficient evidence, often simply on the basis of speeches they made criticising the discriminatory nature of the CAA,” they said.

The experts also highlighted their concern that the authorities’ response to the protests seemed discriminatory. It appears they have not similarly investigated allegations of incitement to hatred and violence made by CAA supporters, some of whom are reported to have chanted “shoot the traitors” at counter-rallies.

The experts further flagged their concern that authorities were invoking counter-terrorism or national security legislation, and using procedural police powers, to deny bail to protesters and issue charges carrying heavy sentences.

“Although demonstrations ended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and India’s Supreme Court issued a recent order to decongest jails because of health concerns related to the pandemic, protest leaders continue to be detained. The reported spread of the virus in Indian prisons makes their immediate release all the more urgent,” the experts said.

They are in contact with the Government on this matter.

Link to the source: News


United Nations

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Rajiv Shakhder, J. while addressing the bail application of Safoora Zargar granted the same while laying down certain conditions.

Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, made the following statement:

“Without in any manner conceding to the factual assertions and legal submission made by the petitioner and without in any manner diluting the contents and submissions made in the reply filed thereto and without making it a precedent either in on- going investigations or any other investigation(s), purely on humanitarian ground, the prosecution agrees to the petitioner being released on regular bail…”

Thus, while stating the above, SG stated that the petitioner can be release on bail, subject to certain conditions being imposed by the Court.

Bench while granting bail laid down certain conditions:

  • She cannot leave NCT of Delhi
  • Cannot be involved in any of the activities that would hamper the ongoing investigation.
  • Once in 15 days, she has to be in touch with the investigation officer through phone.
  • Personal Bond of Rs 10, 000 to be furnished with a surety.
  • In case the petitioner is required to leave the National Capital Territory of Delhi, she will seek permission from the concerned Court.

Bench made it clear that the present order will not be cited as a precedent. [Safoora Zargar v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 664 , decided on 23-06-2020]

Background

She was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for her involvement in the Delhi Riots.

Safoora Zargar, who was accused of giving inflammatory speeches, thereby inciting riots and violence in North East Delhi and was arrested and taken into custody under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. 

Patiala House Verdict

Patiala House Court, New Delhi:  While deciding the instant bail application of student activist Safoora Zargar, who was accused of giving inflammatory speeches, thereby inciting riots and violence in North East Delhi and was arrested and taken into custody under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 [hereinafter UAPA], Dharmendar Rana, ASJ, refused to grant her the bail. Furthermore, pointing out that although no direct violence is attributable to the applicant/ accused, still she cannot shy away from her liabilities.

The Court said that, “When you choose to play with embers, you cannot blame the wind to have carried the spark bit too far and spread the fire”. However, taking note of the accused/ applicant’s pregnancy, he requested the Jail Superintendent to provide adequate medical aid and assistance to her.


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Patiala House Court | “When you choose to play with embers, you cannot blame the wind to have carried the spark bit too far and spread the fire”; Student activist Safoora Zargar denied bail in Chand Bagh Riots case

Case BriefsDistrict Court

Patiala House Court, New Delhi:  While deciding the instant bail application of student activist Safoora Zargar, who was accused of giving inflammatory speeches, thereby inciting riots and violence in North East Delhi and was arrested and taken into custody under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 [hereinafter UAPA], Dharmendar Rana, ASJ, refused to grant her the bail. Furthermore, pointing out that although no direct violence is attributable to the applicant/ accused, still she cannot shy away from her liabilities.

The Court said that, “When you choose to play with embers, you cannot blame the wind to have carried the spark bit too far and spread the fire”. However, taking note of the accused/ applicant’s pregnancy, he requested the Jail Superintendent to provide adequate medical aid and assistance to her.

The applicant/accused is a student of Jamia Milia University. It was alleged by the prosecution that she delivered an inflammatory speech at Chand Bagh area of North East Delhi. Aftermath of which, riots erupted leading to a great loss of life and property. As per the submissions of the Additional Public Prosecutor, Irfan Ahmed, there is enough evidence available on record to connect the applicant/ accused to the riots. It was further submitted that Section 43D (5) of the UAPA places a statutory restriction on the power of the Courts to release the applicant/ accused on bail. The prosecution further pointed out that certain incriminating materials were seized by the police and if this recovery is viewed against the backdrop of the inflammatory speeches given by the applicant/ accused and statements of the witnesses, then it is clear that the riots were a result of a conspiracy to overawe the government and disrupt the normal functioning of the capital city. Thus under these circumstances, the applicant- accused should not be granted bail.

Meanwhile, counsel for the applicant/accused, Sanya Kumar, contended that the applicant/accused is an innocent woman who has a contrary opinion on the Citizenship Amendment Act (hereinafter CAA) and had simply exercised her fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution by being involved in a peaceful protest against the CAA. She further pointed out to the court that the applicant/accused delivered her speech on 23-02-2020 and riots started in the afternoon of 24-02-2020. The evidences clearly suggest that the applicant was not present on 24-02-2020, therefore the alleged violence cannot be attributed to her and the provisions of the UAPA have been wrongly invoked against her. The counsel also contended that the applicant/ accused should be granted bail on humanitarian grounds as she is 21 weeks pregnant and suffers from various other medical complications and given the spread of Covid-19, the applicant/ accused is particularly vulnerable.

Perusing the contentions of both the parties, the Additional Sessions Judge observed that freedom of speech and expression is indeed a foundation for strong and vibrant democracy, however the same is not an absolute right and is subject to the reasonable restrictions laid down in Article 19(2) of the Constitution. Considering the provisions of the UAPA, the Court observed that any activity which creates a disorder and disturbance of law to such an extent that an entire city is “brought down to its knees”, constitutes an ‘unlawful activity’ under Section 2(o) of the UAPA. Concurring with the contentions of the prosecution, the Court noted that it cannot ignore the material available on record which clearly suggests that there was a conspiracy to create an unprecedented scale of destruction and breakdown of law and order. Finding no merits, the Court thus dismissed the bail application. [State v. Safoora Zargar, Bail Application No. 1119/2020 , decided on 04-06-2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

Delhi Commission for Women noted complaints regarding abuse and character assassination of arrested research scholar Ms Safoora Zargar.

Vilification campaign is being run against her and her unborn child on social media and misogynistic comments outraging her dignity and threatening her family.

Ms Safoora Zargar is facing the court of law and is jail. Case against her is Sub-Judice and law shall take its own course.

DCW states that it is a serious matter and the perpetrators must be brought to book. Thus Commission asks Deputy Commissioner of Police for the following:

  • Copy of FIR in the matter of online abuse and attacks on Ms Zargar
  • Details of accused identified
  • Measures taken to remove the post

Delhi Commission for Women

[Notice dt. 06-05-2020]