New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to 21 anti CAA-NPR-NRC protesters of Karnataka's Mangaluru with a condition that they will not participate in any violent activities or meetings.
Two people were killed and several others were seriously injured after police fired against a peaceful protest in December 2019.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian allowed the application filed by Mohammad Asik and others.
The bench also said that the observation of the Karntaka High Court that it was not possible to prima facie determine the presence of the accused persons at the spot, not be treated as a final finding of the fact by the trial court.
In February, the petitioners were granted bail by the Karnataka High Court, but, in March, the apex court stayed this order. On Wednesday, the apex court lifted its stay.
Granting bail, the top court said: "We consider it appropriate to direct that the applicants be released on bail on furnishing bail bonds in the sum of Rs 25,000 each to the satisfaction of the trial court pending trial on the following conditions: (a) That the applicants shall report to the nearest police station on every alternative Monday; (b) That they shall ensure that they do not participate in any violent activities/meetings."
Senior advocate R. Basant and advocate Haris Beeran argued the case for the petitioners, where they contended they were involved in peaceful protests, but police resorted to firing. The petitioners argued that police have already filed a charge sheet in the matter and they have been in custody since December 2019, close to seven months.
Disposing of the matter, the top court said: "We make it clear that the observations of the High Court on question of fact and law are obviously made prima facie and shall not affect the trial. I.A. (intervention application) stands disposed of accordingly."
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Karnataka government, submitted that the High Court's observations while granting bail to the accused should be expunged.
Karnataka High Court had, while granting the bail observed that there was a deliberate attempt to cover up excess by the Mangaluru Police during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in December by implicating innocent people.
"The records indicate that a deliberate attempt has been made to fabricate evidence and to deprive the petitioners of their liberties," said the court while granting bail to 21 people arrested in connection with the violence. "Any criminal antecedents of the petitioners are not disputed... There is no direct evidence to connect the petitioners with the alleged offences. The investigation appears to be mala fide and partisan." They were arrested on charges of rioting, unlawful assembly and damage to property.
Justice John Michael Cunha had said the overzealousness of the police was also evident from the fact that first information reports were registered under Section 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code against the two people killed in police firing. "In an offence involving a large number of people, the identity and participation of each accused must be fixed with reasonable certainty," he said, according to The New Indian Express. "In the present cases, the identity appears to have been fixed on the basis of their affiliation to PFI and they being members of the Muslim community."
The High Court also cited photographs and CCTV footage to point out that the crowd was unarmed except for one person who was holding a bottle. It also observed that the accused were not directly linked to the protests. "On the other hand, photographs produced by the petitioners show that the policemen themselves were pelting stones at the crowd," the courth had added.
(With inputs from IANS)