On 22nd July, a Bench consisting of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta of the Supreme Court orally said to the Delhi Police that it was “very unlikely” that it could be convinced to set aside the bail granted to three student-activists, Natasha Narwal, Asif Iqbal Tanha and Devangana Kalita, in the Delhi Riots conspiracy case.
However, the Apex Court Bench did say that it could have a differing opinion on whether lengthy debates were necessary in a bail order with regard to the statutory provisions.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was questioned by Justice Kaul as to whether the Delhi Police wanted to contend the bail which was granted in the present case or the interpretation which the Delhi High Court gave to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
“We are on both the issues. We will try to convince you on both the points”, the Solicitor General said in response.
“Very unlikely, but you can try”, Justice Kaul replied in turn.
Justice Kaul expressed that it was troubling that lengthy debates about statutory provisions were taking place in bail orders.
Justice Kaul said, “This has troubled us many times. Bail matters are heard at length in Trial Court, High Court and here. You can’t do it here. We only propose to hear this matter for only couple of hours.”
It was further added by Justice Kaul, “One thing can be said that provisions of the Act are not to be debated in this manner. If we are going to debate for hours a bail matter…Bail proceedings are not in the nature of final adjudicatory proceedings. Prima facie call has to be taken if bail has to be granted or not.”
The Delhi High Court on 15th June stated that prima facie offences under UAPA could not be made out against the three activists in the present case as the accused as per the charge sheet were only leading the protests.
Hence, the High Court observed that the right to protest cannot be said to be a ‘terrorist act’ under the UAPA.
At the request of Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, who represented Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, the matter was adjourned by the Supreme Court by four weeks.