Bail in one case, custody in another for two Pinjra Tod activists

They were merely protesting, says Delhi Magistrate while granting bail to the two JNU students. But the Delhi police then sought custody in another case related to the north east Delhi riots which was granted for 2 days.


The Delhi Duty Metropolitan Magistrate Court granted bail to two Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students, also the founders of a women’s collective, Pinjra Tod, for taking part in anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in the capital. However, the same was short-lived as the Delhi Crime Branch immediately moved the court for custody of the two women, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, in another FIR in which charges of murder and attempt to murder were invoked against the them. While the police sought custody for 14 days, the court granted custody for 2 days and asked that they be produced before the same court on May 26.

This was a special hearing held at Mandoli jail on Sunday, May 24. The FIR in which they were granted bail was registered under IPC sections 186 [obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions], 341 [wrongful restraint] and 353 [assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty]. The Duty Magistrate, in the special hearing, noted that the only non bailable offence was section 353 which was not attracted prima facie basis the facts of the case. The legal news website, LiveLaw reported that the Magistrate also observed that the accused were merely protesting against CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC) without violence and also pointed out that they have strong roots in the society and are well educated. The accused, Devangana Kalita is an MPhil student at JNU’s Centre for Women’s Studies and Natasha Narwal is a PhD student at the Centre for Historical Studies and are founders of the women’s collective Pinjra Tod, which takes up causes of women’s rights.

The Magistrate also took note of COVID19 and stated that the court is not inclined to give police custody remand given the vulnerable situation of the fast spreading COVID19 pandemic in the country. Thus, the application by the police was declined in this case.

Immediately another application was moved by Delhi Police Crime Branch of RK Puram seeking 14 days custody in another FIR, in relation to the north eat Delhi riots, for offences under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) and so on, of the IPC, as also offences under the Arms Act and Prevention of Destruction of Public Property Act.

The Crime branch requested custody stating that it was necessary to know the conspiracy behind the incident and the identities of other accused. The lawyers appearing for the accused opposed the demand for custody and termed the other FIR as malafide and pointed out that there was no justification for the arrest, especially when jails are being decongested across the country as per the apex court’s directions.

The court directed that since the investigation was in initial stages, the police could have them in custody for 2 days and directed that the medical examination be carried out as per rules. The court also directed that they should be produced before the same judge on May 26.


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