On June 15, the three student activists Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal and Asif Iqbal Tanha who were accused of offences under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in connection with the North-East Delhi riots were released from the Tihar Jail. The High Court accused the police of blurring the line between “terrorist act” under the UAPA and the students’ right to protest against a law.
However, the High Court decision may be misused by others arrested under the UAPA in order to obtain release. The Supreme Court decided to hear an appeal filed by the Delhi Police against the High Court’s decisions. And came to the conclusion that while the stay order for the cancellation of the bail given to the three activists was refused, the Delhi high court rulings will “not be taken as precedent by any court” to provide similar relief.
A vacation bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian said it was “troubling” that the high court had written 100 pages discussing the entire anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) while deciding the bail applications.
Orally, Justice Gupta stated, “The problem is critical. It has consequences throughout India. There are a lot of questions here. We want to make a decision for the sake of the entire country.” He further stated that the manner the Act has been read by the HC must be scrutinized.
“The entire UAPA, as well as the Constitution, was flipped on its head…” During the appeal hearing on Friday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed before the Supreme Court. According to Mehta, 53 people were killed and 700 were injured during the riots. “The freedom to demonstrate does not include the right to kill and throw bombs,” he argued. Mehta contended that if the protests were organized on the basis of a “perceived notion” that CAA was against a certain population, then “the lady who assassinated a former Prime Minister” also did so on the basis of a perceived injustice done to a specific community.
Speaking on behalf of the students, senior attorney Kapil Sibal stated, “I think the Solicitor General has a lot to say, and we, too, have a lot to say…. In the meantime, let us not see the HC decision as a precedent. At the end the court scheduled a thorough hearing on the government’s appeal from July 19.