Northeast Delhi riots: Ex-Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan granted bail in UAPA case

By Anand Mohan J / Indian Express

Observing that “she was neither physically present in Northeast Delhi for riots nor was she part of any group”, a Delhi court granted bail Monday to former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan, an accused in an Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act case relating to the 2020 riots.

In custody since February 2020, Ishrat was granted bail by Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat. She had been granted bail earlier in another case in which she was accused of inciting a crowd at an anti-CAA protest site in Northeast Delhi’s Khureji Khas.

Ishrat is the first person to be granted bail in the UAPA case by a trial court. The Delhi High Court had earlier granted bail to five persons in the UAPA case — activists Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Safoora Zargar and Faizan Khan.

According to section 43D of UAPA, the court should be of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusation against the accused is prima facie true.

The court noted that “as per the chargesheet and statement of witnesses, accused Ishrat Jahan is not the one who created the idea of chakka jam”.

“She is also not a member of any organisation or incriminating WhatsApp group which plays a role in the entire conspiracy. She is not a member of Muslim Students of JNU (WhatsApp group), or Jamia Coordination Committee or any of the four WhatsApp groups created by JCC, or Pinjra Tod, Students of Jamia, AAJMI or DPSG,” it said.

It was also not the case of the prosecution, the court said, that the accused attended any meeting called by any of these organisations.

It said as per the chargesheet she was involved at the Khureji protest site “but it is not located in Northeast Delhi where the horrendous riots took place in February 2020. It does not appear contiguous to Northeast Delhi.”

The court said even if it is accepted that she had “connectivity” to other accused in the riots, “she was neither physically present in Northeast Delhi for riots nor was she part of any group, organisation… or her name cropped up in a flurry of calls or in CCTV footage or in any of the conspiratorial meetings”.

The prosecution had relied on statements of protected witnesses to allege that she gave provocative speeches. The police had also alleged that she could not explain the transfer of Rs 141,000 which they claimed was used to purchase weapons at the Khureji protest site.

On these allegations, the court said that at the stage of bail application, “this order does not discharge the accused from this case”. It said that despite the embargoes contained in the CrPC and UAPA, it was allowing the bail application looking at the entire conspiracy spelt out against Ishrat. who is a woman, and her role in the case.

Ishrat’s lawyer Pradeep Teotia said there are no pending cases against her, clearing the way for her release from judicial custody.

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