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Anti-CAA protests: Supreme Court directs for release of 21 persons accused of violence in Mangalore

In February, while granting bail to the accused, the Karnataka High Court had observed that there was a deliberate attempt on the part of the Mangalore Police to cover up excesses committed against anti-CAA protestors.

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed for the release of 21 persons from Mangalore who were accused of violence during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) last year.

The Supreme Court Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian recorded the observations made by the Karnataka High Court, which had granted bail to these accused persons in February this year.

CJI SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian
CJI SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian

The Court said,

"Having regard to the observation of the High Court that it was not possible to prima facie determine the presence of the accused persons at the spot and without treating the said observation as final finding of the fact, we consider it appropriate to direct that the applicants be released on bail..."

These accused have been directed to be released on furnishing bail bonds to the tune of Rs. 25,000 each and 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.

The Apex Court also clarified in no uncertain terms that the observations of the High Court are made prima facie and these shall not affect the trial in any manner.

In February, while granting bail to the accused, the Karnataka High Court had observed that there was a deliberate attempt on the part of the Mangalore Police to cover up excesses committed against anti-CAA protestors.

The order passed by Justice John Michael Cunha said,

"…a deliberate attempt is underway to cover up police excesses by implicating innocent persons at the whims and caprice of the police. Overzealousness of the police is also evident from the fact that the FIRs are registered under section 307 IPC against the persons killed by the police themselves.”

The Karnataka government then approached the Supreme Court against this decision.

The petitioners were arrested and remanded to judicial custody for allegedly obstructing the police and causing destruction to public property, in violation of the prohibitory order passed under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Section 144 order was passed for over 24 hours in Mangalore, in the wake of protests against the CAA.

It was alleged that the accused were part of an unlawful assembly of 1500-2000 Muslim youths who conspired to set fire to a police station and cause destruction to public property.

A whole host of charges were levelled against the petitioners, including those under Section 307 (attempt to murder), Section 143 (unlawful assembly) and Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta represented the Karnataka government before the Supreme Court, while Senior Advocate R Basant appeared for the respondents.

Read Supreme Court's Order:

State of Karnataka vs Ashik.pdf
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