A court in western Assam’s Barpeta on Friday granted bail to independent Gujarat MLA and Dalit rights activist Jignesh Mevani, arrested twice in as many cases since April 20, after observing that the first information report (FIR) against him was falsely registered.
The Barpeta District and Sessions Court gave Mr. Mevani bail on a personal recognisance (PR) bond of ₹1,000 in the second case, of allegedly assaulting and pawing a woman police officer on April 21, after he was brought to Assam from Gujarat’s Palanpur. The first case is related to an allegedly offensive tweet on Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he had posted on April 18.
“He is likely to be released tonight or tomorrow (Saturday) morning as the formalities in the first case are to yet be completed after he was granted bail by the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) in Kokrajhar,” the MLA’s legal counsel and senior advocate Angshuman Bora told The Hindu.
Kokrajhar is about 80 km west of Barpeta.
Mr. Bora said the entire process of Mr. Mevani’s arrest was illegal and the court accepted it. The MLA thus merits release as a free citizen of India, he added.
Mr. Mevani was first arrested by the Assam Police on April 20 from Gujarat’s Palanpur based on an FIR lodged against him by Arup Kumar Dey, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) executive member in Assam’s autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council, for an alleged controversial tweet against Mr. Modi.
Soon after he was granted bail by the Kokrajhar CJM court on April 25, the Barpeta Police re-arrested him in the “assault and outrage of modesty” case. The Barpeta CJM court sent him to five days of police custody on April 27.
A fresh application for his bail was filed in the Barpeta District and Sessions Court the following day. Hearing the bail plea, the court dismissed all the charges against Mr. Mevani.
‘No slang words’
The court said that although the Barpeta Police Station had registered the FIR under Section 294 of the IPC, allegedly for hurling slang words at the woman police officer, there was no mention of the words uttered. In the light of this, the court said the case should not have been registered under the Section.
“Further, pointing of fingers at the first informant (policewoman) with the intent to frighten her and pushing her down into her seat with force cannot be held to be using criminal force by the accused with intent to prevent the first informant from discharging her duties. Therefore, commission of the offence under section 353 IPC prima facie is not established,” the court’s order read.
“The alleged pushing down of the first informant into her seat also cannot be held to have been done with intent to outrage her modesty and that too, in presence of two police officers. No sane person will ever try to outrage the modesty of a lady police officer in presence of two male officers and there is nothing in the record to hold that the accused is an insane person,” the court said.
It said there was no evidence, not to speak of the availability of unimpeachable evidence, as the statement of the two police officers accompanying the first informant could not be treated to be admissible in evidence. In view of the same, the commission of the offence under Section 354 of the IPC by the accused has prima facie not been established, the court held.
“Even while assuming that the accused had pushed down the first informant into her seat and thereby, caused bodily pain to her, which is an offence punishable under section 323 IPC, the same is a bailable offence,” the court said.
“...but the victim woman did not depose that the accused used his hands and outraged her modesty. She also did not depose that the accused uttered obscene words at her. She deposed that the accused abused her in his own language. But she definitely did not understand the language of the accused,” the court said.
The court also said that the Superintendent of Police, Kokrajhar should have directed the woman police officer to lodge the FIR with Kokrajhar Police Station but he had not done so. Therefore, the case registered based on the instant FIR is not maintainable as the FIR is the second FIR, the court said.
Shooting in legs
The court also gave its observation on the frequent incidents of firing at the legs of accused persons in police custody.
“….to prevent registration of false FIR like the present one and to give credibility to the police version of occurrences like the arrest of accused persons and the accused persons attempting to escape from police custody in the midnight while the accused persons were allegedly leading the police personnel to discover something and the police personnel firing and killing or injuring such accused, which has become the routine phenomenon in the state, the honourable Gauhati High Court may perhaps consider directing the Assam police to reform itself by taking some measures like directing its personnel engaged in law and order duty to wear body cameras, to install CCTV cameras in vehicles while arresting an accused or taking the accused to some place for discovery of some articles and for such other reasons and to install CCTV cameras at all police stations. Otherwise, our state will become a police state,” the court said.