The Delhi High Court dismissed former Congress Councillor Ishrat Jahan’s petition (Ishrat Jahan vs State). The petition was against the extension of duration to conclude the investigation in a case against her related to this year’s Delhi Riots.
Brief Facts of the Case
Communal clashes had broken out in Northeast Delhi on February 24. This was after the violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters. It spiralled out of control, leaving at least 53 people dead and scores injured. The flaws of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 (UAPA) as an anti-terrorism law seem to appear. This Act doesn’t provide any opportunity to the individual, termed as a terrorist, to justify his case before the arrest. The Amendment did not specify the grounds of terming an individual as a terrorist. This Amendment is against Article 14, affecting fundamental rights. Ishrat Jahan is accused in an attempt to murder. This case is related to violence and rioting in Northeast Delhi over the amended citizenship law. It stated that she did not deserve bail at the present stage of the investigation despite being a woman.
Contentions before the Court
Jahan petitioned that there were no compelling reasons to grant an extension of time for the investigation. The report of the public prosecutor, under UAPA, before the Trial Court, was devoid of any application of mind. Jahan’s Counsel had contended that the addition of provision under UAPA was an abuse of the legal process. This was to only subvert and defeat her right to seek regular and statutory bail under the CrPC.
The argument was that the extension was duly granted in compliance with the ingredients of Section 43D of the UAPA. The scope of inquiry by the Court was very limited. Delhi Police had opposed the plea citing that the High Court should not intervene in the matter. The additional session’s judge extended the time to probe the case by 60 days, the police added. During the investigation, the FIR in question included more charges with Sections 13, 16, 17, and 18 of UAPA. This was given the evidence gathered. As there was no infirmity in it, it got passed after hearing Jahan on that aspect. The same was not mandated, though.
A Single Judge Bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait had been set up. They assured the Court that the investigation was ongoing. It would get completed within the extended timeline. To arrive at its conclusion, the Court relied on a series of judgments passed by the High Court and the Supreme Court. The Court noted the terms of the provision of Section 43-D UAPA. It stated that the Court might extend the period up to 180 days. This may happen if it’s not possible to complete the investigation within 90 days. The report of the Public Prosecutor indicates that the progress of the inquiry should provide relief. The specific reasons for the detention of the accused beyond the period of 90 days should be clear. The Court explained:
“The prosecutor has to see whether the professed requirement of the investigating agency is justified. This justification is based not only upon the application of the investigation officer but also on the progress of the investigation as recorded in the case diary.”
The Court also observed that an accused could not ask to see the reports of the learned Public Prosecutor. This was at the stage of extension of time for completion of investigation or extension of the period of detention. The Court perused the report of the prosecutor in the present case and the order passed by the Trial Court.
Advocates Lalit Valecha, Manu Prabhakar, Tushar Anand, Abhinav Meena appeared for Ishrat Jahan. Delhi Government Standing Counsel Rahul Mehra represented the State. He along with APP Amit Chadha, Central Government Standing Counsel Amit Mahajan, and SPP Amit Prasad were present.
The Court concluded that there was no illegality or perversity in the order passed by the Court and the petition got dismissed.
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