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Bhim Army Chief, Chandra Shekhar Azad
Bhim Army Chief, Chandra Shekhar Azad

It is one’s constitutional right to protest: Delhi Court raps prosecution in Chandra Shekhar Azad bail plea

Bar & Bench

A Court at Delhi’s Tis Hazari Complex today berated the public prosecutor while hearing the bail plea filed by Bhim Army leader Chandra Shekhar Azad.

The public prosecutor today opposed Azad’s bail application, arguing that he had incited public violence through social media posts. When counsel for Azad, Mahmood Pracha, asked the prosecutor to share the posts, the latter reportedly denied the same.

The prosecutor went on to cite a tweet by Azad stating his intention to join an anti-CAA dharna at Delhi’s Jama Masjid.

In response, Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau reportedly asked the public prosecutor,

“What is wrong with dharna? What is wrong with protesting? It is one’s constitutional right to protest.”
ASJ Kamini Lau

She went on to say,

“You are behaving as if Jama Masjid is Pakistan. Even if it was Pakistan, you can go there and protest.”

At this stage, the prosecutor told the judge that permission is required for any protest. Judge Lau then referred to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Kashmir restrictions matter to say that repeated used of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which can be invoked to place prohibitions on assembly, is an abuse of power.

On the contention that the protest took place outside Jama Masjid, a religious structure, the judge reportedly said,

“I want you to show me under which law it is prohibited for someone to protest outside religious places…Have you read the Constitution?”

The bail hearing will continue tomorrow.

Azad and others had undertaken a protest march in Delhi on December 20. On the grounds that no police permission was given for the same, a host of charges were levelled against Azad, including being part of an unlawful assembly. In this regard, Azad’s bail plea states,

“That 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.”

The plea also states that while Azad has been named in the FIR, no specific allegation or charge has been invoked against him. Thus, the invocation of Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) and Section 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) was done in a completely mechanical fashion, without the backing of any evidence.

Azad has been in judicial custody in Tihar in connection with the anti-CAA protests since December 21, after his bail plea was rejected. The fifteen others arrested in connection with the protest were granted bail by a Delhi Court last week.

Last week, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Arul Varma directed jail authorities to ensure that the Bhim Army Chief is given treatment for Polycythemia at AIIMS.