Human Rights Defenders’ Alert India asks NHRC to step in to probe Meeran Haider’s arrest

Meeran Haider, a student activist, was booked by the Delhi Police under the UAPA for allegedly inciting Delhi riots


India is currently reeling under a nationwide coronavirus induced lockdown. In light of this, to prevent transmission in congested spaces, the Supreme Court ordered that the government look at de-congesting prisons. However, going against this directive, the government has continued its targeting of student activists especially from the Jamia Millia Islamia University (JMIU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) booking them under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967 and remanding them into custody for their alleged involvement in inciting communal violence in north-East Delhi in February and being part of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in the capital.

The Delhi Police have arrested student activists like Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider and Shifa-Ur-Rahman among scores of others. The pattern of the activists’ arrest showed that the police first booked them for allegedly organizing protests and later added stronger, more serious non-bailable offences like sedition and conspiracy to hold riots.

In light of this, Human Rights Defenders’ Alert (India) has filed an urgent appeal for action with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against the misuse of law and non-compliance with mandatory procedures to falsely implicate and harass student-activist and Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC) member Meeran Haider who is currently lodged in Tihar Jail.

Meeran Haider, is a PhD scholar at the JMIU and also the President of the Rashtriya Janata Dal Delhi Unit has led a number of peaceful anti-CAA protests in the capital. In a letter to the NHRC, HRDA India explained the details of Haider’s arrest and the FIR that was registered against him citing the personnel of the Delhi Police Special Cell to be perpetrators of his arrest.

According to the statement by HRDA India, Haider was summoned to the Special Cell Police Station, Lodhi Road on April 1, 2020, asking him to reach the police station for investigation purposes. He was questioned there for almost all day and then arrested the same day by the Special Cell under FIR No. 59/2020 under Sections 147, 148, 149 read with 120B of the IPC which deal with rioting, unlawful assembly and criminal conspiracy.

On April 2, Haider was produced before a Metropolitan Magistrate for remand hearing who remanded Haider to police custody for four days and later extended it by nine more days. HRDA says that at the time of arrest, the charges invoked under FIR No. 59/2020 were bailable offences with no mention of other IPC sections. Other laws and the UAPA Act were only added at a later stage, after three weeks of his arrest; a violation of the Supreme Court’s directions in Arnesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar, only to keep Haider in custody for a longer period of time.

FIR No. 59/2020

Sub-Inspector Arvind Kumar registered the said FIR on March 6, 2020. Originally it was made out for charges under Sections 147, 148, 149 read with 120 (B) of the IPC. However, later charges under Sections 124A, 153 A, 186, 353, 212, 295, 427, 436, 452, 454 read with Section 34 of the IPC and Section 3 & 4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act (PPDP) and 25 & 27 Arms Act were added. Haider wasn’t named in the FIR. The complaint said that SI Arvind Kumar received information through secret sources that the riots that took place in Delhi from February 23 to 25, 2020, were a well thought out conspiracy.

The additional charges deal with intention of promoting hatred, promoting enmity between two groups on grounds of religion, obstructing public servants, harbouring offenders, injuring or defiling places of worship with an intent to insult the religion of any class, mischief by fire or explosive substances, house-trespass after preparation for hurt and acts done by several persons in furtherance of a common intention.

Haider has been lodged in Tihar Jail since April 14, 2020. His bail application was filed on April 15 and was rejected on April 20.

However, HRDA apprised NHRC through its statement that though Haider was arrested on the alleged pretext of giving inflammatory speeches during the anti-CAA movement which led to the riots in North-East Delhi, it was found that Haider had given no speech in the week preceding the violence that took place. HRDA said that it was far-sighted to presume that the riots were triggered a week after Haider’s speech. Also, the police had not been able to provide any link between Haider’s alleged inciting speech and the riots.

The HRDA stated that Haider’s arrest was an example of the threat to freedom of speech and expression. Citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015) which stated that freedom of speech and expression had three parts – discussion, advocacy and incitement, it stated that if any address was made by Haider, there was no evidence to believe it was more than discussion or advocacy – within the fundamental right of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.

Stating that Haider’s arrest wasn’t an isolated event but an example of the State’s attempt to criminalize speech by arresting activists and defenders in the country and especially apathetic during Covid-19 when directions were given for the de-congestion of prisons.

In light of this, the HRDA said that it believes that Haider was implicated in a fabricated case by the Delhi Police which targeted him for opposing the CAA. The charges under which he was booked demonstrated the malafide intentions of the Delhi Police, HRDA added.

HRDA appeal

It has appealed to the NHRC to direct the prison monitor of the NHRC to take an immediate visit to the Tihar Jail to determine Haider’s condition of detention, issue a notice to the Delhi Commissioner of Police to produce documents related to Haider’s arrest within 48 hours – arrest memo, medico-legal certificate, inspection memo, names of arresting/detaining officers, CCTV footage of the Special Cell police station for the relevant dates and the examination of compliance of the arrest in lines with the NHRC guidelines, and sections of the IPC.

HRDA has sent an Urgent Appeal regarding this incident to the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC), UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, UN Special Rapporteur on Minority issues, UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and various international organisations.

According to latest media reports, the court has extended the judicial custody of Meeran Haider till June 25.

The complete statement by HRDA India may be read below.


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