- Delhi Police asked for 3 more days for release; Court dismisses petition
- Court questions delay, asks if police was following due process
- Can’t be in jail because police didn’t do verification: Activists’ lawyer
The Supreme Court will on Friday hear a Delhi Police plea against the Delhi High Court decision to grant bail for student-activists Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha.
All three – arrested in May last year over alleged links to riots that erupted amid tension over the citizenship law – were given bail Tuesday on personal bonds of Rs 50,000 each and two sureties of a similar amount.
Other conditions for their release included the surrender of their passports.
The High Court had ordered their release by 1 pm Wednesday, but that deadline slipped by as Delhi Police filed a last-minute petition with the trial court to stop them from leaving Tihar Jail.
This was the same day the police filed the petition before the Supreme Court.
The trial court petition was dismissed this afternoon; Additional Sessions Judge Ravinder Bedi noted the High Court had already passed the bail order and release warrants had been sent.
In arguing that petition there was a bitter back-and-forth between police and the activists’ lawyer.
Claiming procedural delays in verification of addresses and sureties – including the need to check their Aadhaar details – the police had asked the trial court to delay their release for three days.
CPM leader Brinda Karat, who offered surety for Ms Narwal, was present in the trial court when the police said they needed time to verify the particulars of those standing surety for the activists.
To the request for two days for address verification the activists’ lawyer shot back that it was their Delhi residences listed on arrest documents.
“Charge sheet lists address as Delhi. Arrest memo shows Delhi address. Parents’ address (hometowns) isn’t our address here. As adults we rent a place and live in Delhi,” their lawyer said.
“Verification is the work of the police. Our work is to submit the bail bond… We have done our work. Can’t be in jail because police haven’t done their work,” their lawyer added.
This morning the activists also approached the Delhi High Court seeking their immediate release on the basis of its order more than 24 hours earlier.
“The continuing custody despite clear mandate of law, beyond 24 hours since direction to verify sureties, is illegal. Direct the authorities to release us forthwith,” they had said in their plea.
In the brief hearing that followed, a displeased High Court questioned the delays – it demanded to know why Aadhaar verification was needed and if the police was, in fact, following due process.
On Tuesday the High Court highlighted the distinction between the “constitutionally guaranteed right to protest” and terrorist activity as it permitted the activists bail.
Ms Narwal and Ms Kalita are JNU students associated with Pinjra Tod – a collective of women students of and alumni from colleges and universities across Delhi, who fight for women’s rights.
Mr Tanha is a student from Jamia Millia Islamia.
All three were arrested over alleged links to the riots in Delhi in February last year that followed widespread protests against controversial amendments to the citizenship law.
Over 50 people died and around 200 were injured in the violence that followed.