"In Its Anxiety To Suppress Dissent...": Court's Sharp Words For Centre

Delhi Riots: Over 50 people died in the February 2020 violence over the controversial citizenship law


  • Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, Asif Iqbal Tanha have been granted bail
  • They were arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act
  • In February last year more than 50 people were killed in Delhi riots
New Delhi:

There is a difference between the "constitutionally guaranteed right to protest" and terrorist activity, the Delhi High Court said Tuesday, as it granted bail to three activists arrested more than a year ago in connection with riots in the national capital over protests against the controversial citizenship law.

Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, who are members of women's rights group Pinjra Tod, and Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha were arrested in May 2020, charged with conspiracy under the strict Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and denied bail by the trial court.

This morning a High Court bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup Jairam Bhambhani set aside those orders and allowed bail on a personal bond and sureties of Rs 50,000 each, the surrender of passports, an undertaking to refrain from unlawful activities and not hamper investigations.

"It seems that in its anxiety to suppress dissent, in the mind of the State, the line between constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and terrorist activity seems to be getting somewhat blurred. If this mindset gains traction, it would be a sad day for democracy," the court noted.

Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita were arrested in May last year.

They were first arrested on similar charges - relating to riots in the Jaffrabad area of Delhi - but were given bail. The court in that case said videos of the protest did not show Ms Narwal encouraging or inciting violence, as had been claimed. 

Their second arrest came a day after that bail order.

Ms Narwal had been granted interim bail for three weeks last month to perform the last rites for her father Mahavir Narwal, a senior CPM member who died after contracting the coronavirus.

In January a Delhi sessions court had refused Ms Kalita bail.

The two are associated with Pinjra Tod - a collective of women students of and alumni from colleges and universities across Delhi, who fight for women's rights.

The High Court had, earlier this month, also granted Jamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha interim bail so he could study for and take exams due this month.

The court noted it was imperative for Mr Tanha to complete his degree and ordered that he be released on interim custody and brought back to prison on the evening of June 26.

Mr Tanha was arrested for allegedly being part of a premeditated conspiracy in the riots.

Violence broke out in the northeastern parts of Delhi in February last year after tension between supporters of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act and those protesting against it.

Over 50 people died and around 200 were injured in the violence that followed.

With input from ANI