"We find no reason to keep this matter alive," the bench said
The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the appeal filed by the Delhi Police against the Delhi High Court's June 15, 2021 order granting bail to Pinjra Tod activists Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, and a student of Jamia Millia Islamia Asif Iqbal Tanha in the 2020 Delhi riots case.
A bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah dismissed the appeal of Delhi police noting that the three students have been enlarged in bail for nearly two years.
"We find no reason to keep this matter alive," the bench said.
The apex court further clarified that it has not gone into the correctness of the interpretation given by the Delhi High Court of the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act while granting bail to the accused.
Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Delhi Police, urged the bench to specifically clarify that the High Court's order should not be treated as a precedent.
To this, Justice Kaul replied that the bench had said earlier that High Court's order shall not be treated as precedent primarily because of elaborate discussion on merits.
"The impugned order is an extremely elaborate order on bail interpreting provisions of the UAPA Act. In our view, the only issue to be examined was if, in the factual scenario, the accused is to be granted bail or not. While issuing notice we observed that the impugned judgment shall not be treated as a precedent. The idea was to protect the State against the use of the judgment to enunciate the law in a bail matter. The accused have been enlarged on bail for two years. We find no reason to keep this matter alive," the bench said.
At the outset of the hearing, the bench rejected the request of the Delhi police to adjourn the hearing of the case.
The bench said that bail hearings should not be prolonged and dismissed the appeal saying that nothing survived in the case.
Earlier, the top court had said that it doesn't believe in unnecessarily keeping people behind the bars, while hearing the pleas filed by the Delhi police against the bail granted to three student activists in a case of the 2020 Delhi riots case.
Justice Kaul had observed that spending hours hearing the bail petitions in the case was a "complete wastage" of time of the Delhi High Court.
The remarks of the apex court had come while it was hearing appeals of Delhi Police challenging the Delhi High Court's order.
Delhi police had approached the apex court against the High Court order, granting them bail. The top court then refused to cancel the bail granted to three student activists in the northeast Delhi riots case but made it clear that the High Court judgment will "not to be treated as precedent by any court" to give similar relief.
The Delhi police had contended that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) has been "turned upside down" by the High Court while granting bail in the case and that the issue can have pan-India ramifications. The three students were arrested in May 2021 under the stringent UAPA.
The Delhi police, while seeking to set aside the bail verdicts, had stated before the top court that the High Court "not only conducted a mini-trial but has also recorded perverse findings which are contrary to record" and almost decided the case while adjudicating bail pleas.
The High Court had on June 15, 2021, granted bail to the three student-activists saying in an anxiety to suppress dissent the State has blurred the line between the right to protest and terrorist activity and if such a mindset gains traction, it would be a "sad day for democracy".
The High Court had also observed that the right to protest cannot be termed as a 'terrorist act' under the UAPA.
The case relates to the 2020 communal violence in north-east Delhi during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
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