Justices Ramesh Sinha and Saroj Yadav noted the delay in commencement of trial, apart from other relevant factors, in granting him bail.
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A division bench of the Allahabad High Court on August 23 granted bail to Alam alias Mohammad Alam, a cab driver from Delhi, who was arrested in October 2020 on his way to Hathras along with journalist Siddique Kappan and others, under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (‘UAPA’).
“On the basis of material available on record upto this stage, there appears no reasonable ground for believing that the accusation against the appellant are prima facie, true. Prima facie, there appears no complicity and involvement of the appellant with the terrorist activities or any other activity against the nation”, Justices Ramesh Sinha and Saroj Yadav held.
The bench directed Alam to furnish a personal bond in the sum of fifty thousand rupees, with two local sureties of the like amount, to the satisfaction of the trial court. It also asked him to surrender his passport, if he has one.
Alam is presently in jail, having been arrested on October 5, 2020, in Mathura district. He was charge-sheeted on April 2, 2021, under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 124A (sedition) and 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Sections 65 (tampering with computer source documents) and 72 (penalty for breach of confidentiality and privacy) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and Sections 17 (punishment for raising funds for terrorist act) and 18 (punishment for conspiracy, etc.) of the UAPA.
Commenting on the merits of the case, the bench observed that the only evidence against Alam was that he paid Rs. 2,25,000 as purchase money of the car to one Mohd. Aneesh just a few days ahead of the incident, and was a relative of Danish, who had criminal antecedents and was involved in the Delhi riots of 2020 over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests. To this, the bench found the explanation offered by Alam plausible: it noted that money paid by him as per his statement, the money was borrowed from his cousin Mehboob Ali, who has filed his affidavit explaining the source of money.
“As far as the relation with Danish is concerned, he has admitted that Danish is his cousin but specifically denied that he has any connection with the crime. Even the learned Additional Government Advocate cannot specify the connection of the appellant with Danish of the nature that appellant is associated in any way with him regarding terrorist activities and terrorist funding etc”, the bench highlighted.
The bench also took note of the delay in the commencement of the trial. It said there are 55 witnesses mentioned in the charge sheet, and the trial has not commenced yet. It will take a long time to completion of the trial. The appellant has been in jail since October 5, 2020, the bench added.
The bench also sought to distinguish Alam’s case from the case of his co-accused journalist, Sidhique Kappan as incriminating material was allegedly recovered from the latter’s possession.
Earlier this month, a single judge of Allahabad High Court’s Lucknow bench rejected the bail petition of Kappan, holding that prima facie, accusations against him were true.
Kappan was arrested in 2020 by the Uttar Pradesh police for allegedly having links with the Islamic organization Popular Front of India, which is not a banned organization.
The U.P. Police alleged that Kappan and the three other accused persons who were traveling with him were part of a “conspiracy” to inflame religious enmity over the Hathras rape case.
Click here to view the Allahabad High Court’s full order.