HC grants bail to two, refuses two others in Ratan Lal case

Ratan Lal   | Photo Credit: PTI

“It is egregious and against the principles enshrined in our Constitution to allow an accused to remain languishing behind bars during the pendency of the trial,” the Delhi High Court remarked on Tuesday while granting bail to two persons arrested in connection with the death of head constable Ratan Lal during the north-east Delhi riots last year.

Justice Subramonium Prasad reiterated that “bail is the rule and jail is the exception” while granting bail to 22-year-old Shahnawaz and Mohd Ayyub, a businessman who runs a readymade shop near his residence at Chand Bagh here.

The court noted that both Mr. Shahnawaz and Mr. Ayyub have been in custody for 17 months now and the veracity of the allegations levelled against the duo can be tested during the trial.

The case relates to an FIR registered pursuant to the death of Lal, who was on duty during the riots. As per the police, on February 24, 2020, at about 1 p.m. the protesters had mobilised near Chand Bagh and 25 Futa Road, and were moving towards the Main Wazirabad Road. When the police officers attempted to convince the protesters to not move forward, the crowd snatched tear gas balls and lathis from the police, and started beating them with it.

Police stated that ACP Gokalpuri, head constable Lal and DCP Shahdara Amit Kumar were also beaten with sticks and stones, and as a result, they fell down and suffered grievous head injuries. Later, Lal succumbed to injuries.

First casualty

Lal was among the first reported casualties on February 23 last year when stone pelting began in north-east Delhi, leading to communal riots. His postmortem revealed that he had died of a bullet injury and had suffered multiple injuries to his body. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Mr. Shahnawaz, who claimed to be the sole bread earner of a family with aged parents, was arrested on March 29, 2020.

The High Court said that there is no electronic evidence which places him at the scene of crime during the time of the alleged incident. The call detail records (CDR) in his case were inconclusive as he is a resident of the area, the court said.

In the case of Mr. Ayyub, the court said he has been in custody since his arrest on March 11, 2020. The court said that the video footage in which he is seen does not indicate whether he was part of the unlawful assembly at the scene of crime.

“Additionally, merely being one of the organisers of the protest as well as being in touch with others who participated in the protest is also not sufficient enough to justify the contention that the petitioner [Mr. Ayyub] was involved in the pre-planning of the alleged incident,” Justice Prasad said.

“This court has already opined that the right to protest and express dissent is a right which occupies a fundamental stature in a democratic polity, and therefore, the fact that the petitioner was part of the protest is not a sufficient ground to refuse bail to him,” the High Court added.

Justice Prasad through two other separate judgments rejected the bail plea of two more persons, who were arrested in connection with the murder of Ratan Lal during the riots.

Rejecting the bail plea of 22-year-old Sadiq alias Sahil, who claims to be the sole bread earner of a family with aged parents, the court said he was seen on multiple CCTV footages, carrying a danda (stick) with other co-accused.

Active involvement

“The clinching evidence that tilts this court to prolong the incarceration of the petitioner [Sahil] is his presence in wherein he is clearly identified at the scene of crime, holding a danda in one hand and pelting stones with his other hand at uniformed officials who...are heavily and hopelessly outnumbered,” Justice Prasad said.

The High Court opined that the video reveals that Sahil is not merely a curious onlooker. “The fact that he actively participated and pelted stones at the police officials justifies the invocation of Section 149 (unlawful assembly) Indian Penal Code read with Section 302 (murder) IPC in the instant case,” it said.

In the case of Irshad Ali, who claims to do stitching work, the court noted that he was seen on multiple CCTV footage, carrying a danda and provoking the crowd.

“This court is of the opinion that the footage of the petitioner [Ali] at the scene of crime is quite egregious, and is therefore sufficient to keep the petitioner in custody,” Justice Prasad said, adding that he has perused the video in slow motion and felt that Ali’s presence at the scene of crime cannot be disputed.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 11:07:24 AM |

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