By LE Staff

New Delhi, June 17, 2021: The Delhi High Court today directed the trial court to expedite proceedings for the immediate release of student activists Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Asif Iqbal Tanha, who were granted bail by the High Court on June 15 in a case pertaining to the northeast Delhi riots. 

A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup Jairam Bhambani was hearing a plea seeking the immediate release of the three student activists, who were booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA for their alleged involvement in the communal riots in the national capital in February last year. 

Following the High Court order granting them bail, the three students moved applications in a city court for their immediate release. However, the police yesterday told the court of Additional Sessions Judge Ravinder Bedi that they would be able to file the verification report only by June 22.

Bedi had then deferred the passing of order on the immediate release citing a “heavy board of bail applications” listed before it. The three activists had then approached the High Court seeking immediate release.

In its application, police urged the court to direct the UIDAI to submit a report on the verification of the Aadhaar cards of the accused. The application stated that the three accused are residents of places outside Delhi. “The outstation permanent address verification of all accused persons is pending due to paucity of time,” it stated.

In the High Court today, senior advocate Siddharth Aggarwal who appeared on behalf of Tanha said once an order of bail is passed, it can’t be obstructed for administrative or ministerial reasons. 

“I can be released and they can go ahead with verification. If it is an issue of verification, I am an accused and they surely know where I stay. My address forms a part of their chargesheet…if it found that there is some problem, I will be back in custody,” Aggarwal said.

He further told the bench that by not taking a decision on the application, the trial court “has taken a view”.

Advocate Adit Pujari, appearing on behalf Narwal and Kalita, said, “What the Delhi Police has done is that they have very cleverly verified one surety for each appellant and said that there is an error regarding the second surety. The deficiencies are that they did not record the statements of the sureties or neighbours and these were pointed out when they came to our sureties’ houses.”

In response, Justice Mridul said, “Obviously we expect the trial court to expedite the proceedings…This has to be done at a reasonable time. This cannot be an open process”.

Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad told the bench that they were only following the court’s orders, even as imputations were being passed on the state.

“The bail bond was given at 4:10 (pm) the Special Cell got it at 5.30. We were expected to file the report by 1 pm (next day). All the verification had to be done by one day… during verification certain glaring facts have come. We are not obstructing the release. We don’t have magical powers to verify from Assam and Jharkhand, addresses have certain glaring discrepancies,” Prasad said.

The bench adjourned the matter for hearing at 3:30 pm, saying it will wait for the trial court’s order on the police seeking extension of time for police verification.

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