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Karnataka HC grants default bail to 115 people in DJ Halli violence case

Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday granted default bail to 115 people arrested over the East Bengaluru riots last year, while keeping on hold a trial court’s order extending the time to complete the investigation by another 90 days, saying it was legally unsustainable
PUBLISHED ON JUN 18, 2021 12:16 AM IST

Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday granted default bail to 115 people arrested over the East Bengaluru riots last year, while keeping on hold a trial court’s order extending the time to complete the investigation by another 90 days, saying it was legally unsustainable.

Justice S Vishwanath Shetty passed the order while allowing a batch of petitions filed by accused Muzammil Pasha and others, who were arrested on August 12, 2020.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), after it could not complete the probe within the stipulated 90 days, had filed an application in the trial court for an extension for completion of investigation under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967. The trail court had extended the time for completion of the investigation by 90 days in November last year and the applications filed by petitioners for default bail were rejected in January this year. Subsequently, Pasha and other accused moved the high court in January, this year.

The HC on Wednesday noted that the application filed by the prosecution requesting an extension of time for completion of the investigation, without notifying the accused, would frustrate their indefeasible right for statutory bail.

The riots were triggered by a Facebook post by Naveen P, nephew of Congress MLA from Pulakeshinagar constituency R Akhanda Srinivas Murthy, in DJ Halli and KG Halli areas. On August 11 last year, a mob gathered in those areas reacted after police sought time to take action over a complaint filed against Naveen’s post, which was termed derogatory to Muslims, as per the police complaint filed on August 11.

Pasha, an accused in the case, had approached the DJ Halli police station with this complaint against Naveen at 7.45 pm on August 11. The attacks began at 9.30 pm and ended in the early hours of August 12 after MLAs and other senior leaders gathered at the spot, according to the FIR. Four people were killed in the riots, according to police.

Police filed 68 FIRs in this case. In two FIRs, they invoked sections 15 and 16 (punishment for terrorist activity), section 18 (conspiracy to commit a terrorist act) and section 20 (being members of a terrorist organisation) of the UAPA. This was the largest number of people ever charged under the UAPA for a single incident of violence in Karnataka. The Bengaluru Police slapped the stringiest charges against the accused just days after a fact-finding committee, led by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Aravind Lambavalli, demanded an investigation by NIA.

The central agency then took over the investigation into the case on September 11, 2020.

The case had caught the attention of the human rights groups since it was the only riot case in which the government slapped UAPA charges, even though the state had reported witnessed 971 cases of riots in the past five years.

Meanwhile, families in DJ Halli affected by the mass arrests claimed they have been wronged. A woman, whose husband was arrested in the case, told HT that she had CCTV footage to prove that her husband was not at the site of the riot. “There is CCTV footage showing him getting into the apartment from the only entry and exit to their building. He doesn’t come out there for the entire duration of the violence,” she claimed.

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