Terrorising dissent: On bail for student activists

HC bail orders are an indictment of attempt to portray Delhi protests as terrorist acts

The High Court has ruled that the bail court can look at the available evidence to satisfy itself about the prima facie truth of the case. In other words, there is no statutory invincibility to the prosecution case merely because the UAPA has been invoked. It has found that none of the three — Asif Iqbal Tanha, Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita — was specifically or particularly accused of any ‘terrorist act’, ‘funding of a terrorist act’ or an act amounting to a conspiracy to commit a terrorist act or something preparatory to it. Once the UAPA charges were not seen to be true, it was open to the court to admit them to regular bail until conclusion of the trial. Further, with 740 witnesses cited, there is no scope for early conclusion of the trial. Riots are matters concerning public order, and not the security of the state. The court’s observation that the state, in its anxiety to suppress dissent, has blurred the line between the constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and “terrorist activity”, is a stern indictment of the establishment. The Delhi Police has gone to the Supreme Court on appeal against the verdict, possibly in the fear that the ruling may foil its design to paint protesters as ‘terrorists’. If the High Court’s approach to grant of bail is upheld, it would help secure the liberty of other dissenters held under the UAPA elsewhere without sufficient basis.

Source: Read Full Article