New Delhi: Rebuking Uttar Pradesh police for its shoddy investigation related to the December 20, 2019, protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), a sessions court in Bijnor district granted bail to 48 people out of 83 after the police failed to produce any evidence of rioting, arson and attempt to murder, for which these people were booked.
Bijnor, one of the Muslim-majority cities in Western Uttar Pradesh, witnessed large-scale violence during protests against CAA and NRC, leaving two people dead in Nehtaur -- a small town, barely 7 km from the district headquarter. The police later admitted that one Mohammad Suleman was killed in police firing in self-defence while Anas was killed by stray bullets.
After the alleged violence in Nagina and Nehtaur, the police had arrested 83 people from Nagina on December 20. The First Information Report (FIR) accused them of firing at the police, damaging government vehicles and vandalising private vehicles and shops.
'NO EVIDENCE AGAINST PROTESTERS'
On January 28, the district sessions court judge, Sanjeev Pandey, while listening to the bail plea of 48 people, stated that the government lawyer had not submitted any evidence that people in the crowd had fired at the police.
"In the FIR, it is said that the mob opened fire on the police but no weapons were shown recovered. According to the case diary, bullet cases were recovered from the spot but the prosecution did not present any proof that could show which accused from among the crowd opened fire. According to the prosecution, no policeman or any other person got bullet injuries, nor have they produced any firearm,” the judge was reported as saying.
The judge also pointed out that no proof had been submitted that showed that the mob indulged in arson and destroyed private vehicles. “The police have reported damage to one government vehicle but the technical inspection was done on January 12, 20, days after the said incident,” Pandey said.
The judge also busted police claims that 13 of their personnel were injured during alleged firing by protesters. "The FIR had stated 13 policemen had been injured but none of them had been found to have gunshot injuries. They have ordinary bruises, only one has a cut mark,” the order said.
Considering the accused, who had been in judicial custody since December 20, had no previous criminal record, the judge found suitable grounds to grant bail to 48 persons.
RAMPUR POLICE DROPS SERIOUS CHARGES 'SECRETLY'
Unlike Bijnor, a session court in neighbouring Rampur granted bail to two of men and dropped charges of rioting and attempt to murder during the protest against CAA-NRC-NPR on December 21 last year.
Soon after this, the Rampur district administration dropped several serious charges against protesters from FIR.
Amar Singh, the investigating officer said that no case of offence under Section 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of IPC could be made out against 26 out of the 34 arrested for the December 21 anti-CAA protest in which one person was killed.
Out of 23 killed in Uttar Pradesh, one protester, Faiz Khan, was killed in Rampur during the anti-CAA protests on December 21 while 34 were arrested by the police for violence that erupted near Haathi Khana Crossing.
Commenting over the bail granted by the sessions court in Bijnor and Rampur, Ali Zaidi, a Delhi-based lawyer practicing with the Supreme Court, told NewsClick, "It became difficult for the police to prove the involvement of people being arrested in false charges as the court came on the frontfoot. The police is now changing their stand, like in Rampur, and the police have dropped the serious charges, including murder, attempt to murder and dacoity against 26 of the 34 people arrested in connection with the December 21 violence in the city.”
Zaid said this proved that the UP administration was only harassing innocent people. “The administration is only following Yogi's (chief minister) order, not the law. On February 17, we will state all these facts in High Court and will demand a judicial enquiry in all cases in UP as we don't have any trust in the police now. Police has become a tool to harass innocent people in UP."
When asked about the bail update in Meerut, Zaidi said: "The date of hearing has been extended thrice in Meerut due to several reasons but the situation there is same, unlike Bijnor and Rampur. People have been booked under false cases and police will not be able to produce any evidence against protesters as they don't have it."
Meanwhile, on Friday the Supreme Court sought response of the Uttar Pradesh government on a plea seeking quashing of notices sent to alleged protestors by district administration for recovering losses caused by damage to public properties during anti-CAA agitations in the state.
On December 19 and 20, thousands of people joined a protest against CAA-NRC-NPR in several districts of Uttar Pradesh. As the protests turned violent at a few places, at least 23 people were killed—most of them with bullet injuries—in Meerut, Kanpur, Bijnor, Firozabad and other places. Most of them were daily wagers.