Deep Sidhu gets bail, held again hours later
A Delhi court on Friday granted bail to Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu in connection with the violence at Red Fort during the Republic Day farmers’ tractor rally, saying the police’s endeavour to make an example out of him for the entire sequence of events since he is a popular public figure hazards a failure of justice due to “compromised objectivity”. However, the Delhi Police arrested him again hours later, in connection with another case related to the violence during the rally.
Sidhu was expected to be released after additional sessions judge Neelofar Abida Parveen granted him bail at a personal bond of ₹30,000, stating that the prosecution is yet to establish the identity of several other members of the unlawful assembly. However, he will remain in jail after his arrest in the second case, which is also being probed by the crime branch. Senior officers said he will be taken into police custody for interrogation and investigation soon.
“The protest rally/parade had been authorised subject to restrictions imposed in the interest of law and order, it is the several acts of breach of specific embargoes, the violence perpetrated, the damage caused to public property and national heritage site, nuisance at a restricted site that are the subject matter of the allegations raised in the present FIR. The prosecution seeks to make an example out of the case of the accused-applicant, he being a popular public figure, such an endeavour, however hazards a failure of justice as a result of compromised objectivity,” the court said in its bail order.
“The prosecution alleges involvement of thousands of offenders and it would violate and infringe the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed to Sidhu if he is denied bail in the present case on such nature of accusations and material only on grounds that the investigating agency is yet to establish the identity of the several other members of the unlawful assembly,” it said.
The court, however, said that while in a democracy there is a right to dialogue and dissent, the registration of FIR against Sidhu is not an invasion of this fundamental right.
Like the first case, the second was also registered at Kotwali police station, but on a complaint filed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The first case was registered on the complaint of the Kotwali station house officer. Sidhu is the first person to be arrested in the second case, the police said.
Sidhu’s counsel advocate Abhishek Gupta said, “The need and timing of the arrest is extremely questionable and is a grave affront to an individual’s personal liberty, and runs foul of the rights guaranteed under Article 21.”
Since the Red Fort is maintained by ASI, it filed a separate complaint detailing the damage to the monument.
The Delhi Police arrested Sidhu on February 9 for his alleged involvement in the January 26 violence. The agency told the court that Sidhu was the “main instigator” and one of the rioters, a charge which Sidhu’s lawyer Abhishek Gupta vehemently denied.
He told the court his client just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and got to know about the flag hoisting at Red Fort from media reports.
The court said the facts of the matter cannot be lost sight of and the nature of incriminating material cannot be disregarded at any cost. It said Sidhu was neither part of the tractor rally which broke barricades nor has any specific role been attributed to him in the commission of violence at Red Fort and attacking police officials on duty.
The judge said the prosecution voiced a strong apprehension that Sidhu could tamper with evidence, as he also deleted data and formatted his phone apprehending arrest.
“However, the prosecution’s case rests largely on the contents of video recordings and footage available and accessible to all on social media sites in public domain, and there is therefore a remote possibility of Sidhu being able to interfere with the content on such platform,” the judge said.