Supreme Court Dismisses Challenge By Delhi Police Against Grant Of Bail To Pinjra-Tod Activist Devangana Kalita & Others
The Supreme Court today dismissed the Special Leave Petition filed by Delhi police challenging the order of the Delhi High Court which had granted bail to the Pinjra-Tod group activist Devangana Kalita, Asif Iqbal Tanha and Natasha Narwal. The Court noted that the respondents are out on bail for almost 2 years and dismissed the batch of appeals.
The Court refused to interfere with the bail granted, but observed that the order passed by the High Court is an extremely elaborate order interpreting various provisions of the UAPA Act and that in its view the only issue required to be examined in the factual scenario is whether the accused is entitled to bail or not.
The Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah noted that "It is this argument which persuaded us while issuing notice on 18.06.2021 to observe that the impugned judgement shall not be treated as a precedent and may not be relied upon by any of the parties in any other proceedings. The idea was to protect the state against the use of judgement on the enunciation of law in the bail matter. The respondent has been on bail for almost 2 years. We see no purpose in keeping this matter alive."
The Court further said that "We noticed that one of the co-accused has filed an application seeking a way to interpret our interim direction on 18.06.2021 and submitting that the said observation was coming in the way of seeking bail on parity. If the co-accused is entitled to a plea of parity, that is for him to make and for the court to consider. We want to make it clear at the cost of repetition that the purpose of the interim order dated 18.06.2021 was that the expounded legal position regarding statutory interpretations should not be in a bail matter used in the proceedings of either of the accused or any other." On having noted the aforesaid, the bench closed the proceedings.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appeared for the Petitioner and submitted that the Supreme Court has already dismissed an appeal arising out of the same FIR. The Apex Court while dismissing the appeal had noted that "the observations made by the High Court in the impugned judgment are only for the purpose of granting the bail and shall not be treated any expression of opinion during trial."
The Solicitor General appearing for the Delhi Police had submitted that the High Court Judge has in the impugned judgement declared the UAPA as unconstitutional and that a large number of personal views were expressed in the order by the judges.
The Supreme Court had on June 18, 2021, issued notice in the SLP and had directed that the impugned judgment of the Delhi High Court shall not be treated as a precedent and may not be relied upon by any of the parties in any of the proceedings, but had refused to interfere with the bail granted.
The charge sheet filed by Delhi Police in the matter of Devangana Kalita who is accused of several offences committed during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act runs into 20,000 pages. Kalita had 04 FIRs registered against her, all of which however appear to arise from the same event, namely protests against the CAA and the NRC, in which she is alleged to have participated.
On June 15, 2021, the Delhi High Court admitted Devangana Kalita to regular bail until the conclusion of the trial subject to conditions. The High Court while granting bail observed that no offence under Sections 15, 17 or 18 of UAPA is made-out against the appellant on a prima facie appreciation and that the right to protest is not outlawed and cannot be termed as a ‘terrorist act’ within the meaning of the UAPA.
The Delhi High Court in its 80 pages judgement further interpreted the term ‘terrorist act’ and related provisions under UAPA. The Court observed that"The intent and purpose of Parliament in enacting the UAPA and in amending it in 2004 and 2008 to bring terrorist activity within its scope, was and could only have been, to deal with matters of profound impact on the ‘Defence of India’, nothing more and nothing less." observed the High Court and further stated that "It was not the intent, nor purpose of enacting UAPA that other offences of the usual and ordinary kind, however grave, egregious or heinous in their nature and extent, should also be covered by UAPA".
Cause Title: State Of Nct Of Delhi v. Devangana Kalita [SLP(Crl) No. 4289/2021]