Taking a strong stance against the arrest of Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad, a Tiz Hazari sessions judge in Delhi questioned the police's investigation into the case that led to the arrest of Azad. "You are behaving as if Jama Masjid is Pakistan," judge Kamini Lau told the Delhi Police over its action against protesters agitating against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act.
According to Live Law, Lau further questioned the "objectionable statements" on the basis of which the Delhi Police made the arrests. "Where is the illegality? Tell me about the law. What has investigation shown?" the judge asked.
Azad sought bail in a local court on Monday in connection with the violence during anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest in Daryaganj area, claiming that police invoked "boilerplate" charges against him and arrested him "mechanically" without following the due process of law. Currently in judicial custody, Azad claimed that he has been falsely implicated as the allegations levelled against him in the FIR were not only "ill founded", also "improbable".
The bail plea, filed through advocate Mehmood Pracha, alleged that no specific incriminating role has been attributed to Azad in the FIR, of which the contents were "vague" and based on "conjectures and surmises". It said he was at all times demonstrably making efforts to maintain peace. Azad's outfit had called for a protest march from Jama Masjid to Jantar Mantar against the amended Citizenship Act on 20 December, without police permission. Other 15 people arrested in the case were granted bail by the court on 9 January.
Judge Lau asks Prosecutor -I want you to show me under which law is it prohibited for someone to prohibit outside religious places?@BhimArmyChief
" Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) January 14, 2020
Judg Lau- Do you think our Delhi police is so backward that they have no recorded evidence? In small matters Delhi police have recorded evidence why not in this incident?@BhimArmyChief
" Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) January 14, 2020
During the bail plea hearing on Tuesday, judge Lau asked the prosecutor, "I want you to show me under which law is it prohibited for someone to prohibit outside religious places?" The judge also raised questions on the investigation that is being followed. "Do you think our Delhi Police is so backward that they have no recorded evidence? In small matters Delhi Police have recorded evidence why not in this incident," the judge noted.
Pracha informed the court that the FIR mentioned the charges against Azad in Uttar Pradesh. When judge Lau asked the prosecutor about those charges, the prosecutor pleaded ignorance and said that "he will find out." Judge expressed surprise at the fact that the prosecutor was not aware of the charges.
"Where is the violence? What is wrong with any of these posts? Who says you cannot protest..have you read the constitution?"Judge Kamini Lau asks the Public Prosecutor.@BhimArmyChief
- Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) January 14, 2020
The public prosecutor opposed the bail application saying that the Bhim Army chief had incited violence through his social media posts. The prosecutor initially refused to share the posts with Pracha but the judged directed him to share the "alleged objectionable posts" unless any privilege is claimed.
The prosecutor then read out some of the posts that Azad shared. Noting that the posts speak of Azad's call to protest and stage dharna near Jama Masjid to oppose the CAA and the NRC, the judge asked, "What is wrong with dharna? What is wrong with protesting? It is one's constitutional right to protest."
Azad's bail plea filed on Monday said that he was willing to fully cooperate with the investigation in the case and would not tamper with any evidence or influence any witnesses.
Taking note of the charges levelled against Azad, the judge asked the public prosecutor to show Azad's lawyer (Pracha) the problematic posts, "unless there's reasoned show of privilege." Pracha informed the court about the charges regarding Saharanpur. Judge Lau said she wanted a copy of the Saharanpur FIR regarding the charges to which the prosecutor said that Azad was on bail on all other matters. Pracha urged the court to give bail to Azad since the prosecutor has "conceded that Azad was arrested because he was out on bail in other cases and no case has been made out in this case to arrest him."
While the public prosecutor claimed that "there are 'drone footages' of the alleged inflammatory speeches made by Azad", Pracha rersponded to those charges saying "Azad was only reading Constitution and talking about CAA-NRC."
Judge Lau said that "Pracha is right" in saying that Azad "is a lawyer and lawyers have been leaders because they are well read. Maybe Azad needs to read more, he may be an Ambedkarite, but maybe he has his heart in the right place, but he isn't able to express it correctly."
Azad's bail plea, filed through advocates OP Bharti and Jatin Bhatt, alleged, "Accused has been falsely implicated in the present case as the allegations levelled against him in the FIR are not only ill founded but also improbable and cannot bring home the charges mentioned in it... Further, the contents of the FIR are vague and based on conjectures and surmises."
The bail plea claimed that charging him with being a part of an unlawful assembly was "erroneous", as at no point of time during the alleged incident did the police authorities declare the peaceful protestors to be an unlawful assembly. "No motive has been attributed to the accused in the present FIR, and all charges have been added mechanically... Charging the accused with being a part of an unlawful assembly is erroneous, as at no point of time during the alleged incident did the police authorities declare, announce, or proclaim the peaceful protestors to be an unlawful assembly, and nor were any warnings issued or announced in this regard.
"It may also be considered that all the material witnesses of the incident are police officials, and therefore it is further unlikely that any witness tampering will be attempted by any individual, especially the accused in the present application," the bail plea said.
Judge Lau was in news in 2017 after a bench of Justice Valmiki J Mehta and Justice Indermeet Kaur of the Delhi High Court initiated criminal contempt charges against her after she made "judicial improper remarks" against a sitting Delhi High Court judge. Lau was additional district judge in 2017. Additional District Judge at Tis Hazari, judge Lau had written four applications to the high court, asking the court to delete certain adverse remarks and observations made by the judge of the Delhi High Court against her after matters dealt by her was brought before the higher court. However, the two judge bench of the Delhi High Court considering those applications noted that the remarks made by the judge of the high court were like judicial comments and hence cannot be omitted. But the court took strong offence to the allegations and language used by Lau.
With inputs from agencies