Ishrat Jahan, an accused in the Delhi riots conspiracy, has filed for bail.

BY Betwa Sharma

In a bail hearing earlier this week, Delhi riots accused Ishrat Jahan’s lawyer Pradeep Teotia argued before Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat of Shahdara District Court at the Karkardooma Court Complex, saying that the Delhi Police has invoked the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, (UAPA) with the sole intent and purpose of denying bail to his client — a lawyer and former Congress Party councillor.

Jahan was arrested on February 26, 2020 in FIR no. 44/20, PS Jagatpuri, in connection with incitement of violence at the Khureji Protest site, near Vivekananda Ashram, Khureji Petrol Pump. She was subsequently granted bail in this FIR on March 21, 2020, but was immediately arrested in another case, FIR 59/20, PS Crime Branch, popularly known as Delhi Riots conspiracy case. At the time of her arrest, FIR 59 included offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Arms Act, and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act. FIR 59 was registered on the instance of a secret informant on March 6, 2020 and it included bailable offences under IPC at that point of time.

On March 13, a magistrate in Patiala House granted bail to three arrested persons on the grounds that the FIR had only bailable offences. The Magistrate had also sought a written explanation by the Special Cell as to why they did not accept bail despite the fact that offences were bailable. No explanation of any kind has been filed before the court so far.

On 15 March, 2020, six days prior to the arrest of Ishrat Jahan, 15 offences under IPC, two under Arms Act, and two offences of PDPP were added to this FIR. On 19 April, the UAPA was invoked after another co-accused (Safoora Zargar) filed bail and the Special Cell of the Delhi Police was asked to submit a detailed reply delineating the role of that co-accused.

Eighteen people, including students and activists, have been charged with planning the communal violence in February 2020.

Jahan is charged under various sections of the IPC, including murder, and for terrorism under the UAPA.

In June 2020, Jahan was granted bail for one week 10 days to get married.

Teotia on Monday said that the UAPA case was a “crucifixion,” with the whole country watching. “The impact of injustice lasts 100, 200, 500 years,” he said.

“Can they show any evidence of premeditation with any of the other accused,” said Teotia. “Why can’t they show any connection with any other accused.”

“They think that by writing 4,000 names in a UAPA case, you can implicate anyone. That is not the case,” he said. “There should be scrutiny. This is a very stringent law. If you want to book anyone under this law, the police have a great responsibility.”

Teotia said the police evidence against his client in FIR 59/20 was the same as FIR 44/20 for which she had already been granted bail.

Teotia asked whether it was wrong for a person to have a political affiliation. The lawyer said that the police witnesses had fabricated accounts against his client, accusing the police of threatening to implicate the witnesses in the same UAPA case.  With regard to the witness who claims to have distanced himself from the Jahan when he found out that she and her affiliates were not just running the anti-CAA protests, Teotia asked why the said witness had not gone to the police at that time, and only spoke three months after the riots.

Further, the Khureji protest site was manned by police all the time and there was no instance of violence or any riot between 22-25th February, 2020, the days of riots.

The Delhi Police say that the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) were a cover for planning the riots that claimed the lives of 53 people — 40 of them Muslim. Sixteen of the 18 people charged in the Delhi riots conspiracy case are Muslim.

Last month, three students Asif Iqbal Tanha, Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita were granted bail by the Delhi High Court in FIR 59/20, with the bail orders stating that the Delhi Police had made out no prima facie case under the UAPA against the accused, and that dissent was not terrorism. Two other accused in the case — Safoora Zargar and Faizan Khan were granted bail by the Delhi High Court in 2020.

No bail has been granted by the district courts in the UAPA case of the Delhi riots. In November 2020, Rawat denied Jahan interim bail request citing Covid-19 outbreak in Mandoli jail.

The Delhi Police say that over Rs 1 crore was received between December 2019 to February 2020 by accused persons Ishrat Jahan, Khalid Saifi, Tahir Hussain, Shifa-ur-Rehman and Meeran Haider for financing the running of the protest sites and the execution of the alleged plot to trigger the riots. The Delhi Police say that Jahan received Rs 4 lakh into her bank account on 10 December 2019, and made a cash deposit of 1,41,000 into her own account on 10 January 2020. “During the investigation, it was found that Jahan had used this money to manage the protest sites and in purchasing the weapons through Abdul Khalid. The weapons were used during the riots,” the police said in the FIR 59/20 chargesheet.

On the issue of finance, Teotia told Rawat that a sum of Rs 4 lakh was transferred to Jahan’s account on 10 December 2019, even before Parliament passed the CAA, the law was the trigger for the anti CAA protests. The CAA was passed by Parliament on 11 December, 2019 and signed into law by the President of India on 12 December, 2019.

Unless the police case was that Jahan knew about what the government was planning with regards to the passage of the bill, or someone in the government was informing her of their plans, Teotia asked how this money could be linked to the planning of the protests or the riots that followed.

Teotia said that to disprove the police allegation that Jahan was withdrawing money to fund the protest sites, he had studied Jahan’s passbook, and found her spending patterns to be similar before and during the course of the anti-CAA protests.

As for the katta (home made pistol), which was allegedly purchased with Jahan’s money and fired at a policeman, Teotia said there was no proof of the same: “Who did she give the money to? From where was the katta bought?”

The next bail hearing for Jahan is scheduled for 23 July.

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