No bail for Jamia student Asif Tanha in north-east riots case
A Delhi court has rejected the bail plea of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) student Asif Iqbal Tanha, who was arrested under a stringent anti-terror law — the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act — in a case related to the communal violence in north-east Delhi in February that left 53 people dead.
The court, while rejecting the bail, said the statements of the protected witnesses in the case reflected the role of many suspects, including Tanha, regarding the protest sites and how everything was planned.
“The statements clearly point out the role of the accused, Asif lqbal Tanha, as also other co-accused persons and various actions taken by them in pursuance of the conspiracy. He was part of a conspiracy for doing chakka-jam, leading to the riots. His name comes out in statements of witnesses as one of the main coordinators in the entire conspiracy,” additional sessions judge Amitabh Rawat said in his order dated September 2.
“……considering the statement of such witnesses regarding the role of Tanha and other accused persons, I have no hesitation to hold that there are reasonable ground for believing that accusations against the accused are prima facie true...,” the judge said in his order.
Tanha, a BA third-year student in Persian, was arrested in May in connection with the north-east Delhi riots. Tanha, who is in judicial custody, had been earlier arrested in connection with the violence outside Jamia Millia university during a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in December last year. The 24-year old student was arrested for the second time on May 19 .
Dismissing his bail plea, the court said the freedom of speech and expression under the Constitution of India granted Tanha the power to oppose any legislation and peacefully protest and it was subject to reasonable restrictions.
“Thus, what has to be seen is the context, manner of expressing the dissent and various acts associated with it. It has to be some acts in pursuance of a conspiracy by various means,” it said.
Appearing for Tanha, advocates Siddharth Aggarwal and Sowjhanya Shankaran, said he was falsely implicated in the case. They said the invocation of UAPA against him was bad in law as there was no unlawful association or terrorist organisation with which he was associated.
They said Tanha was not a member of Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC) WhatsApp group till February 24, and therefore, the messages on February 23 regarding the alleged planning of riots were not relevant to him.
There has been no recovery of the money trail and no payment has been ascribed to him from any objectionable source, Tanha’s lawyers said.
Police say members of the JCC, a group of Jamia students and alumnus formed in December 2019, planned the riots. The group has denied the allegations.
Tanha said his premises were not searched and no evidence was collected against him. No incriminating material or arms or ammunition was recovered from him, he said.
Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad, appearing for Delhi police, opposed the bail plea, saying Tanha was one of the conspirators and involved with other accused persons and that there was sufficient material for establishing a prima facie case against him.
The public prosecutor said there was a conspiracy hatched to cause communal riots in Delhi and it was multi-layered and deep-rooted.
Communal riots had broken out in north-east Delhi in February this year, leaving 53 dead and over 400 injured.
The Delhi Police in their reports before the court have said that the riots were planned at the Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest sites by some student leaders, activists, and local politicians.
The arrested suspects have accused police of targeting anti-government voices.