Release of activists leads to a piquant legal situation

On one hand the court refuses to stay the release of the three activists after the HC judgment, thereby legitimizing their release, yet on the other it says that the ruling cannot be used as a precedent, deglitimizing the HC judgement, which per logic would then mean the three activists would have to be back in jail right now.

  • Oliver D’Souza

A curious situation persists in the Supreme Court following the release of the three activists jailed last year for protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

The High Court in its 15th June judgment held that no case was made out against the three under the UAPA.  The Delhi police had alleged in their charge-sheet that the protests were part of a larger conspiracy behind the Delhi communal riots in which 53 people were killed.

It may be recalled that currently a case is pending in the Delhi courts over the outright communal-violence-inciting statements made by BJP leaders including Union ministers with the now infamous cal ‘Goli Maro Salo Ko,’ hanging as a crown of shame on the minister and the BJP.

When the matter pertaining to the statements came before Justice Murlidhar, known for being upright and respecting the law more than politicians, was onverinight transferred and the case was then deferred by the incoming judge.

So let there be no doubts about who, why and how of the Delhi riots. The entire nation knows that it was triggered by the ruling party and carried out by their goons in right-wing organizations, with full police patronage from Delhi police that is controlled by the BJP.

There was never any doubt that the three activists, like many others around the country, were victims of a conspiracy to shield the true culprits. More blatantly criminal and shameful conduct has not been seen in independent India except for the Gujarat riots in 2002. 

The Delhi High court ruling now also means the union government would no more find it easy to misuse the UAPA for its political purposes, to suppress dissent and stifle political and ideological opposition of any sort. The last 7 years of the Modi regime have seen far more and expansively extensive abuse, spite and trampling of the law and the Constitution of India by the present Union government than Indira Gandhi’s infamous emergency of 1975.

With its back to the wall after botching up in every aspect of running the nation, including ruing the economy, conceding territory to the Chinese and mismanaging the Covid-19 pandemic, the ruling party is bound to try to preserve its weapon- the UAPA law. With nothing to show the people, al that the government is left with is the state machinery to suppress public displeasure over its governance and performance. The ruling also now emboldens everyone to protest against the government – rather opens the flood gates of protest.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the Delhi police would challenge the High Court’s judgment releasing the three activists. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Delhi police, argues that the judgment turns the UAPA law on its head. To which the Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court has responded by issuing notice while at the same time saying that the High Court’s judgment cannot be used as a precedent.

Since the matter is sub-judice, without getting into the legalities, the move by the SC presents a very piquant situation; On one hand the court refuses to stay the release of the three activists after the HC judgment, thereby legitimizing their release, yet on the other it says that the ruling cannot be used as a precedent, deglitimizing the HC judgement, which per logic would then mean the three activists would have to be back in jail right now.

If the Delhi HC says application of UAPA against the activists was baseless, if the SC refuses to stay their release yet stating the HC ruling cannot be taken as precedent raises the question, what are the activists, therefore, on trial for?

The ruling government indulged in machinations to commit wrong after a humiliating defeat in Delhi assembly Elections and then cover it up by trying to fix blame on the innocent.  Conscientious judges of the High Court have seen through it and so did the SC bench who refused to stay the release of the activists. Clearly, the political machination of the Modi government have ended up as another headache for the SC which has far more important matters to  deal with.

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