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Delhi Riots: SC says HC's judgment granting bail to 3 activists not be treated as precedent

11:51 PM Jun 18, 2021 | FPJ Bureau

NEW DELHI: Refusing to stay the bail granted to three students incarcerated in Tihar Jail for the last one year, a vacation Bench of the Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the Delhi High Court verdict on the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) will not be used as a precedent by any party before any court in India.

The vacation Bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian held that the issue of reading down of UAPA is "important" since it can have "pan-India ramifications" and so its use in other cases will require interpretation by the Apex Court. "We want to decide it for the good of the country," it said.

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The Bench, however, shared the concern of petitioner Delhi Police on implications of the High Court ruling on UAPA, expressing surprise and finding it "troubling that the High Court has written 100 pages discussing the entire anti-terror law while deciding the bail applications of the three students."

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Presiding judge Justice Gupta's remarks came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta referred to the parts of the High court judgment contending that the bail order “turns on its head the entire UAPA, along with the Constitution."

Refusing to interfere with the liberty of the three student activists -- Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal of the JNU and Asif Iqbal Tanha of Jamia Millia Islamia -- the Court ordered issue of notices to the three students to let them file the counter in four weeks.

The Solicitor General pleaded that "in the interim the impact of judgment be stayed without affecting the bail granted to the accused."

Senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for the student activists, opposed Solicitor General Mehta’s plea for the stay of the High Court

judgment. Agreeing that the court should examine the judgment for its ramifications across the country, he said at the most the Court may say that the (HC) judgment will not be a precedent.

Sibal said if the Solicitor General has “much to say” on the issues relating to UAPA, then he too “has a lot to say."

The Solicitor General singled out the High Court judgment for drawing a distinction between the charges levelled against three student activists and a terrorist act.

In its verdict on Tuesday, the Delhi High Court had said that “In our opinion, the intent and purport of Parliament in enacting the UAPA, and more specifically in amending it in 2004 and 2008 to bring terrorist activity within its scope, was, and could only have had been, to deal with matters of profound impact on the 'Defence of India.' Nothing more and nothing less."

Assailing the High Court ruling that the UAPA could only be invoked in respect of the activities impacting the defence of the country, the Solicitor General told the court that in the last year's violence in northeast Delhi 53 people lost lives and over 700 were injured.

He said if this protest was on the “perceived belief” that Citizenship (Amendment) Act was against a particular community, then “the lady who assassinated a former PM” also did it in the belief that injustice was done to a particular community. His reference was to Rajiv Gandhi's assassination.

The Solicitor General also took exception to a paragraph of the High Court judgment which reads, “We are constrained to express, that it seems, that in its anxiety to suppress dissent, in the mind of the State, the line between the constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and terrorist activity seems to be getting somewhat blurred. If this mindset gains traction, democracy would be in peril.”

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