Bhopal: The Madhya Pradesh High Court struck down provisions of the National Security Act (NSA) imposed by the Indore collector on five persons for carrying out a Muharram procession on August 30 today.
While hearing the four writ petitions by Tanveer Patel, the Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh HC remarked that the NSA imposed on five people by the district magistrate for taking out a Muharram procession was based on a “media trail”.
In 12-page verdict, a division bench of Justices S.C. Sharma and Shailendra Shukla on September 15 ordered the state government to set free former corporator Usman Patel (60) and three other family members – Ismail Patel (45), Ansar Patel (38), Mohammed Ali Patel (65) – who had been detained under the similar charges. The court also dropped the NSA charges of fifth accused, Shahzad Patel (28) and granted him bail on September 18.
Usman Patel is the former corporator of Ward no. 38 in Indore. He had resigned from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in February this year and joined the Congress after taking a stand against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
On August 31, the Indore police registered an FIR against 28 people from the Muslim community for organising a Muharram procession a day prior in the Khajrana area of Indore city despite a ban.
Hours later, the district magistrate imposed the stringent National Security Act (NSA) against five persons while 23 people were booked and later arrested under Sections 188, 269, 270 and 151 of the Indian Penal Code.
In its verdict, the court observed that the Indore district magistrate formed his opinion on the basis of a “media trial” and imposed the NSA against the five people. “The order passed by the District Magistrate refers to news published in Nai Duniya, Dainik Bhaskar, Peoples Samachar... It is unfortunate that media trial has become very common these days and now the adjudicating authorities are delivering their judgments based on media trials. Resultantly, there appears to be total non-application of mind on the part of the district magistrate in passing the impugned order...(sic),” he court remarked.
In his order which invoked the NSA, had referred to articles by the three dailies which had claimed that the five people had provoked members of the Muslim community to take part in the last day of the Muharram procession, which was a violation of prohibitory orders and physical distancing norms.
Justifying his decision of invoking the NSA against Usman Patel, Singh argued that Patel is a habitual offender and that several cases have been registered against him since 2005.
“Based on the arguments and the evidence, the court found that the district collector’s claim against Usman for invoking the NSA is baseless. No case has been registered against Usman since 2005,” Usman’s advocate, Tanveer Patel, told NewsClick, adding that he had been acquitted by the court in 2007 in previous cases.
Hearing the four petitions together, the court further observed that the detention orders under NSA were not confirmed by the state government within 12 days, which is mandatory according the NSA. Hence, they could only be booked under Section 188 of the IPC.
“It’s a textbook example of how officials are invoking charges like NSA against people based on media trials, without any substantial proof of the incident,” said Tanveer Patel.
“It has been four days since the High Court granted them bail and a copy of the verdict was also received by the Indore collector the following day. However, the administration is delaying their release,” he added.