SG Mehta says he’ll try persuade SC to cancel bail to Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Asif Tanha; SC says “very unlikely”

THE Supreme Court Thursday observed that it was “very unlikely” that the Delhi police would be able to persuade the court to send back Delhi riots accused Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal and Asif Tanha to jail.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul who was heading a two-judge bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta whether he was aggrieved by the grant of bail to the activists or the interpretation of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act while granting bail?

In response, SG Mehta who was appearing for the Delhi police along with Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi said he would be persuading the court on both the grant of bail to the accused and the interpretation of Section 15 of the UAPA that was made by the high court while granting bail. To this, Justice Kaul said “very unlikely, you can try though”.

Justice Kaul also said, “I may have some reservations whether, in a bail proceeding, the high court should have gone into all this”.

The bench which also had Justice Hemant Gupta, adjourned the matter by four weeks on the request of the counsel of the accused persons. Appearing for the accused, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said the charge sheet ran into over 20000 pages, and he did not have the wherewithal to translate the documents. He urged the court to allow him to submit the document in a pen drive without a translation as both the judges can understand Hindi. SG Mehta did not oppose the prayer and the court thus permitted Sibal to do so.

At the outset of the hearing, Justice Kaul was irked by SG Mehta’s consistent request to the judges not to make any observations till they heard the matter.

“You can’t expect me not to speak. If you don’t want to hear me, I will adjourn the matter by six months. Can I be precluded from putting questions just because the other side has moved adjournment request”? Justice Kaul asked Mehta.

Justice Kaul added he was just trying to segregate the issues – one being the grant of bail which concerns the fact of the case and the other, the interpretation of the law.

On June 15, the Delhi High Court had granted bail to the three activist. A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup J Bhambhani said “In its anxiety to suppress dissent, in the mind of the State, the line between the 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”.

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High Court added “Allegations relating to inflammatory speeches, organising of chakka jaam, instigating women to protest and to stock-pile various articles and other similar allegations, in our view, at worst, are evidence that the appellant participated in organising protests, but we can discern no specific or particularised allegation, much less any material to bear out the allegation, that the appellant incited violence, what to talk of committing a terrorist act or a conspiracy or act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act as understood in the UAPA”.

Aggrieved with the high court’s order, the Delhi police approached the Supreme Court which on June 18 refused to cancel bail for the present but said the Delhi High Court order would not be treated as a precedent until further orders.