New Delhi: A Delhi court on Tuesday granted bail to a woman associated with Pinjra Tod, a collective of women students and alumni of colleges from across Delhi, in a case related to violence in old Delhi’s Daryaganj area during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in December last year.
Metropolitan Magistrate Abhinav Pandey granted the relief to Devangana Kalita, a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student, on furnishing a bail bond of Rs 30,000 and two sureties of like amount and imposed “stringent” conditions on her.
The court directed her not to indulge in a similar activity and cooperate with the investigating agency. It further directed her to deposit her passport before the concerned court till further orders.
This was the third case in which Kalita was arrested on Sunday and sent to police custody for three days. Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad was also arrested in December last year in the case for allegedly giving inflammatory speeches and later granted bail.
Kalita was earlier arrested in two separate cases related to the communal violence in northeast Delhi in February.
The court said in its order that the investigation carried out till now in the December violence case does not show any direct evidence attributable to Kalita to bring her for the offence under section 325 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt) and 353 (assault to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the Indian Penal Code.
It further said that CCTV footage reportedly does not specifically show her to be involved in any violent activity. “The accused (Kalita) allegedly, on the basis of social media posts, participated in protest against the NRC bill, but so far as the investigation been carried out till now, no direct evidence attributable to the accused has been found to bring her for the offence under section 325 and 353 of the IPC,” it said.
The court noted that the investigation has been carried out on the basis of details provided in the MLCs conducted of the injured persons, whereupon call data records were obtained as per which she was found to be present at the scene of the incident at the time of commission of offence.
“CCTV footage also reportedly does not specifically show the accused to be involved in any violent activity. Disclosure statements made before the police and the injuries on the person of the accused reflected in the MLC which got conducted by the accused on her own accord, is not sufficient to make a strong prima facie case against the accused so as to deny bail. It is also not indicated that any incriminating material was recovered from the laptop and the phone which was seized from her.”
“In such a situation, the inference whether the accused incited or participated in the mob violence or had intended to participate in a peaceful protest only which later on acquired a violent nature, can only be reached upon after appreciation of evidence in course of trial,” it said.
It further said that Kalita was not a habitual offender or a previous convict and the other criminal proceedings pending against her related to the same or similar incidents.
The hearing also witnessed a bit of drama as when the accused was produced in the court, none appeared for her and she was ordered to be sent to Judicial custody till 16 June.
However, 10 minutes later, advocates Adit S Pujari and Tusharika Mattoo, counsel for Kalita, appeared before the court and moved an application seeking bail for Kalita.
They claimed that the IO did not inform them about the time when he was producing Kalita and ignored their phone calls and that is why they could not appear before the court on time. They told the court that since they were late by a few minutes only, the application for bail should be entertained by the court.
When the court agreed, the counsel said Kalita was ready to cooperate in the investigation and would comply with any conditions imposed by the court. They informed the court that all co-accused in the case have been granted bail earlier.
Pinjra Tod (Break the Cage) was founded in 2015 with an aim to make hostels and paying guest accommodations less restrictive for women students. In 2015, Jamia Millia Islamia University had issued a notice restricting female students to stay out after 8 pm.
When the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) questioned the Jamia administration on it, a group of women students decided to protest against the restrictions not only in Jamia but other universities in Delhi. Later named as Pinjra Tod, the group mobilised people around several issues faced by female residents of hostels and PGs.
Azad’s outfit had called for a protest march from Jama Masjid to Jantar Mantar against the amended Citizenship Act on December 20, 2019, without police permission. Fifteen other people arrested in the case were also granted bail by the court.
There were violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act near Jama Masjid and Daryaganj area on December 20, 2018, in which people had pelted stones and torched vehicles. Several people including police officials were injured in the incident.