Delhi court passes release order for Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Asif Iqbal Tanha

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A Delhi court on Thursday finally passed the release orders for Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, and Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha after the three students moved the court seeking forthwith release from jail, two days after the trio was granted bail by the Delhi high court in connection with the northeast Delhi riots case. The students urged in their pleas for immediate release from prison, pointing out that more than 36 hours have passed since they were granted bail by the court.

A Delhi high court bench comprising Justices Siddharth Mridul and AJ Bhambhani commenced hearing on the pleas on this day and issued directions for the trial court on the release of the three students — Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, and Asif Iqbal Tanha. Additional Sessions Judge Ravindra Bedi said that she has passed the release order at 11 am as scheduled even when the counsels of all the parties said that they were not aware of the order. A detailed reasoned order is awaited.

In its bail order two days ago, the Delhi high court had noted that the allegations raised against the students do not prima facie disclose the commission of any offense under sections of the UAPA. Thereby, additional restrictions on the grant of bail do not apply, the court ruled. The Delhi high court also noted that the line between terrorist activity and the constitutionally guaranteed right to protest is getting “somewhat blurred” in the mind of the State, “in its anxiety to suppress dissent”.

All three students were arrested in May last year under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in connection with the case related to a large conspiracy in the northeast Delhi riots which broke out in February last year.

Narwal, who is a student pursuing an MPhil-PhD programme in the Centre of Women’s Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Devangana Kalita, who is pursuing an MPhil-PhD programme in the Department of Women’s Studies at JNU, were taken into police custody on May 29, 2020. Iqbal Tanha, a 25-year-old student, pursuing his final year of BA (Hons) Persian programme at the Jamia Milia Islamia University was arrested in the same UAPA case on May 19 last year which was being probed by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police.

Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 last year after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control, leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.

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