Two members of Pinjra Tod, a women’s student organization who were arrested by the Delhi Police on Saturday in connection with their alleged role in the anti-CAA Jafrabad sit-in protest in February, were granted bail by a Delhi court. The two women were arrested in relation to FIR No. 48/2020 registered by Jafrabad police for offenses under IPC sections such as 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 341(wrongful restraint), and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty).
On 24th May, the Duty Metropolitan Magistrate Ajeet Narayan, after a special hearing at Mandoli Jail, granted bail to the two members of ‘Pinjra Tod’, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal citing that Section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the IPC invoked against them was ‘not maintainable’, and that they were merely protesting against the CAA and NRC. He noted that the only non-bailable offense in the FIR was Section 353 IPC, which was not prima facie attracted.
“Facts of the case reveal that accused were merely protesting against the NRC and CAA and accused did not indulge in any violence. Also, the accused have strong roots in society and they are well educated. Accused are ready to cooperate with the Police regarding the investigation,” observed the judge.
However, the respite was short-lived, as the Investigating Officer from Delhi Police Crime Branch, R K Puram, immediately moved an application seeking their 14 days custody in relation to another FIR and a Special Investigation Team of the Crime Branch arrested the two again in relation to riots that erupted in North East Delhi on 24th February under the charges of murder, attempt to murder, rioting, and criminal conspiracy.
According to the police officials, the two women were among those who organized an anti-CAA protest and road blockade under Jafrabad Metro station on 22nd and 23rd February. The protest had prompted a pro-CAA rally by BJP’s Kapil Mishra and his supporters on 23rd February. A day later, riots broke out in the district.
Meanwhile, Advocates Adit Pujari, Tusharika Mattoo and Kunal Negis, appearing for the women, opposed the 14 days custody application stating that accused have been implicated in the second FIR ‘malafidely’. They further pointed out that there was no justification for the arrest, given the nature of the offenses alleged against the two women and that too at a time when attempts were being made to decongest jails across the country on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Initially, the Magistrate granted permission to Inspector from Crime Branch to interrogate them for 15 minutes, and make a formal arrest, if found necessary. However, after that, the Crime Branch made a formal arrest and sought for 14 days custody, stating that it was necessary to know the conspiracy behind the incident and the identities of co-accused. The court eventually remanded them in two-day police custody.
“Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, and the initial stage of the investigation, both the accused are remanded to two days’ police custody,” stated the Duty Magistrate.
The case was registered under sections 147 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from the discharge of his duty), 283 (danger or obstruction in a public way), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 332 (causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 307 (attempt to murder), 302 (murder), 427, 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 188 (disobedience of public servant’s order) of the IPC and under relevant sections of the Arms Act and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
“Pinjra Tod” was founded in 2015 and its founding members include the two women Devangana Kalita, an MPhil student at JNU’s Centre for Women’s Studies and Natasha Narwal, a Ph.D. student at the Centre for Historical Studies. It was started as a movement against curfews in girls’ hostels and gradually emerged as a collective taking up causes related to women’s emancipation.