On 18 February, the Karnataka High Court granted bail to 21 people who were detained on the allegations of violence against police during anti-CAA protests in Mangalore on 19 December 2019. The HC further ruled that opposing the CAA could not be termed as an “unlawful object”.
As per sources, the bench headed by Justice John Michael Cunha while hearing the petitions filed by Mohammed Ashik and 20 others from Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts of Karnataka stated that the investigation appears to be mala fide and that there was a deliberate attempt to cover up the police excesses by implicating innocent persons at the whims and caprice of the police. The court further held that there is no direct evidence to connect petitioners with alleged offenses and granted them bail.
“In an offense involving a large number of accused, identity and participation of each accused must be fixed with reasonable certainty. In the present cases, a perusal of the case records produced by the learned State Public Prosecutor -I indicate that the identity of the accused involved in the alleged incident appears to have been fixed based on their affiliation to Popular Front of India and they were members of the Muslim community. Though it is stated that the involvement of the petitioners is captured in the CCTV footage and photographs, no such material is produced before this Court showing the presence of any one of the petitioners at the spot armed with deadly weapons” stated Justice John. “On the other hand, photographs produced by the petitioners disclose that the policemen themselves were pelting stones on the crowd,” he added.
While citing that the overzealousness of the police is also evident from the fact that the FIRs are registered under section 307 IPC against the persons killed by the police themselves, the court stated that “The records indicate that a deliberate attempt has been made to trump-up evidence and to deprive the liberties of petitioners by fabricating evidence.”
It was further observed that while the police had registered 31 FIRs against protesters, not a single case had been registered based on complaints made by the family of the injured and those persons who died in police firing.
A case was registered for unlawful assembly, causing damage to public property and attempt to set fire to a police station during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Mangalore on 19 December. The petitioners were arrested and remanded to judicial custody for allegedly obstructing the police and causing destruction to public property, in violation of the prohibitory order passed under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
“It would be a travesty of justice to deny bail to the petitioners and sacrifice their liberties to the mercy of the District Administration and the police,” stated Justice John while granting bail to the petitioners. He further directed each of the accused-petitioners to furnish a bond for Rs 1 lakh and two sureties each for like sum apart from imposing other conditions to appear before the trial court as required, not threaten or allure the prosecution witnesses, not get involved in similar offenses, and to not leave the territorial limits of the trial court without its prior permission.