Two Pinjra Tod women activists, who were granted bail on Sunday in a case related to the northeast Delhi communal violence, were sent to two days of police custody moments later in a separate murder case linked to the riots.
When Metropolitan Magistrate Ajeet Narayan granted bail to Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita in a rioting case, a Delhi Police crime branch investigating officer moved an application for their interrogation and arrest in a separate case of alleged murder of a local during the riots.
The two members of Pinjra Tod, a collective of women students and alumni of colleges across Delhi, were arrested on Saturday in connection with a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Jaffrabad area in February.
The judge granted them relief in the rioting case on furnishing a bail bond of Rs 20,000.
"Facts of the case reveal that the accused were merely protesting against the NRC and CAA, and the accused did not indulge into any violence," the court said. "Also, the accused have strong roots in the society and they are well educated. Accused are ready to cooperate with the police regarding the investigation."
Considering the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the court was not inclined to give police remand of the accused and declined the application seeking custody.
It said both the accused shall cooperate and join the further investigation as and when required by the investigating officer.
"They shall not commit an offence similar to the offence which he has committed. The accused shall not make any inducement, threat or promise to any person acquaintance with the facts of the case," it said.
During the hearing, the police had sought two days of custody of the accused, saying it was necessary for interrogation as they are "active in anti-national activities" and also for arrest of co-accused in the rioting case.
The counsel for the accused opposed the application, saying police had pressed charges with mala fide intent and are "not maintainable".
The lawyer had said the FIR was filed on February 24, subsequent to which Narwal and Kalita had cooperated with the investigative authorities and orally prayed for grant of bail.
The case, in which they were arrested on Saturday, was registered under sections 147 (rioting), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 188 (disobedience of order by public servant), 283 (danger or obstruction in public way), 109 (abetment), 341 (wrongful restraint), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the Indian Penal Code.
Moments after the court pronounced its order in the case, the investigating officer of the Crime Branch moved an application before it for their interrogation and formal arrest in the murder case.
The police told the court that both the accused have disclosed their involvement in the second case and are named in the disclosure statement of the co-accused.
After interrogating them for 15 minutes, the police moved an application seeking 14 days custody in the murder case, saying accused have to be thoroughly interrogated at length to know the conspiracy behind the incident and the identity of other accused has to be established, and police remand was necessary to arrest the co-accused.
The counsel for the accused opposed it, saying that Narwal and Kalita were implicated in the case with "mala fide" intent.
This time, the court granted two days custody of the accused to the police, saying the investigation was at its initial stage.
The case was registered under sections 147 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 283 (danger or obstruction in public way), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 332 (causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 307 (attempt to murder), 302 (murder), 427, 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 188 (disobedience of public servant's order) of the IPC.
The case was also registered under relevant sections of the Arms Act and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control, leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.