Hathras conspiracy case: two more accused granted bail by the Allahabad High Court

CFI leader KA Rauf Sherif and Mohd. Danish granted bail, HC noted that the court below had failed to appreciate the material available on record

On July 7, the Allahabad High Court granted bail to two more accused languishing in jail in connection with the Hathras Conspiracy case. The said bail was granted to Campus Front of India (CFI) leader KA Rauf Sherif and one Mohd. Danish @ Tunnu, who had been booked under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). It is essential to note that this is the same case in which journalist Siddique Kappan is also an accused party. Kappan had been granted bail by the Supreme Court in September, 2022, and is currently out of the jail. Notably, two more accused, Mohammad Alam, who was the cab driver, and Atikur Rehman had also been granted bail previously.

It should be noted that the Uttar Pradesh police’s Special Task Force has filed charges against nine people connected to the Popular Front of India (PFI) for allegedly committing offences such as sedition, criminal conspiracy, funding of terrorism, and other offences. Among the ones that were charge sheeted were the leader of the group’s student wing, K.A. Rauf Sherif, and Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan. Furthermore, they were also accused of engaging in money laundering activities, claiming that the motivation of those involved was to “incite communal riots and spread terror” in the wake of the Hathras gang rape case.

Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 153 (A) (Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, and place of birth, residence, and language), 124(A) (sedition), 295 (A) (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings…) and 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) had been used against the said nine accused. Additionally, they are accused of violating several sections of the IT Act as well as Sections 17 and 18 of the UAPA, which relate to raising funds for terror acts.

Earlier, in December 2022, the Special Judge, NIA/ATS, Additional District and Sessions had denied bail to Sherif and Tunnu. Challenging the order, they moved to the HC.

Arguments made by the appellants:

The two appellants were represented by Advocates Amarjeet Singh Rakhra and Sheeran Mohiuddin Alavi. It was argued by the counsels that the current two appellants were not listed in the original FIR, which had initially been lodged in the case against four other accused parties. Furthermore, it was asserted that there was no evidence to support any claims made that they two accused were affiliated with any terrorist groups, were looking for donations or financial support, or had any connections with the PFI or the CFI.

It was further argued that, in light of the provisions of Section 43-D (5) of the UAPA, the court handling the accused’s bail application had a responsibility to determine and satisfy itself regarding whether there were good reasons and reasonable grounds to believe that the accused is prima facie guilty of the charges against them.

Their main argument was that the Special Court wholly failed to satisfy itself as to whether Section 43-D (5) of the UAPA applied, and refused the bail requests solely because a charge sheet had been filed against him, and the co-accused’s bail request had also been denied. The bench was also informed that the High Court had earlier granted bail to co-accused Kappan and Mohammad Alam.

Arguments made by the state:

On the other hand, the counsel representing the State contended that the appellants are connected to the PFI organisation, which engages in terrorist actions in the nation and tries to sow discord there by promoting caste and religious prejudice. Furthermore, it was argued that the Special Court had good cause to deny the bail application because there is a substantial amount of evidence against the appellants.

Order of the court:

After having heard the contentions put forth by both the counsels for parties and upon perusal of the records, the bench of Justice Attau Rahman Masoodi and Justice Ajai Kumar Srivastava-I noted that initially, the FIR came to be lodged against four accused persons which did not include the names of the appellants and no incriminating article was recovered from their possession or their pointing out.

The investigating agency has already filed a charge sheet against the appellant and the trial is yet to commence. The named co-accused, namely, Sidhique Kappan, who has been assigned the lead role, has been granted bail by the Apex Court…The other co-accused, namely, Alam @ Mohammad Alam, who was named in the F.I.R. and Atikur Rahman have been granted bail by a Division Bench of this Court,” the Court observed in its order. (Para 16)

The Court also noted that the two appellants have been languishing in jail since a significant amount of time, with Rauf having been incarcerated since February 2021 and Tunnu since November 2022.

Consequently, considering the facts and circumstances of the case, without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, the Court opined that the court below had failed to appreciate the material available on record. With this, the Court granted the two appellants bail.

The order can be read here:



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