Delhi Riots 2020: Student activist Gulfisha Fatima seeks bail from High Court

Gulfisha Fatima along with several others was booked under anti-terror law for being the 'masterminds' of the February 2020 riots in Delhi.

2020 Delhi Riots aftermath. (Image Credit: AFP)2020 Delhi Riots aftermath. (Image Credit: AFP)

Press Trust of India | December 13, 2022 | 09:11 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Student activist Gulfisha Fatima sought bail from the Delhi High Court in a case of larger conspiracy behind the February 2020 communal riots in northeast Delhi, asserting no role was ascribed to her for encouraging the violence.

Arguing before a bench headed by Justice Siddharth Mridul, the counsel appearing for Fatima said all the statements to show her alleged culpability were recorded by the police over a period of several months after her arrest and the possibility of these statements being “tailored” cannot be ruled out. Her counsel argued that all the witnesses participated in the protests and even attended certain meetings between the accused persons and therefore they were “unpardoned accused masquerading as witness” and the court should take this into account while deciding her bail plea. “None of these witnesses is an innocent bystander.

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A reading of their statement would suggest that they were all part of the protest. Every single one of them participated in the protest… participated in a way that far exceeds any role ascribed to me. They are members of DPSG (WhatsApp group)…. They are moving from one protest site to another,” the lawyer argued before the bench, also comprising Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar.

“They attended the meetings (including) one of the meetings in Seelampur where Umar Khalid was present ... not one of them comes forward or goes to the police at the relevant time. It is only when a notice is issued to them once FIR is registered, police starts summoning, they come forward and gave their statements minimising their role,” he added. The lawyer argued that no speech or suggestion at any meeting of the accused is ascribed to Fatima and, while it cannot be denied that violence took place in the city at the relevant time, no role was ascribed to her.

“I am not denying that violence took place in Delhi … but what is the role ascribed to me? Where am I party to the violence? Where am I encouraging that violence?” he said. “Based on the kind of evidence they (witnesses) have given against me, every single one of them is a potential accused… Under any other circumstances, they would have gone through a process… they would have turned into an approver, made clear confession of guilt. Every single one of them is an unpardoned accused masquerading as witness against me,” the lawyer said.

Submitting that all the witnesses “speak like a great chorus”, the lawyer questioned the reliability of a prosecution witness. “Does he go to the police? Does he escalate the issue? Not one witness. There is not one witness that doesn't have a role in the protest,” he said. The lawyer said despite the statement of a witness about the talk of using chilli power and sticks during a meeting attended by the accused persons there was not a single piece of evidence to suggest that any "mirchi powder", "danda" or glass bottles were eventually used.

Fatima, along with several others, has been booked under the anti-terror law -- Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) -- in the case for allegedly being the "masterminds" of the February 2020 riots, which had left 53 people dead and over 700 injured. The violence had erupted during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). On March 16, the trial court had refused to grant her bail in the case.

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