Former Congress councillor, Ishrat Jahan, who was arrested on the 26th of February 2020 for her involvement in the Delhi anti-Hindu riots has been given bail by the Karkardooma Court, Delhi. The bail plea was moved against FIR 59/2020 which details the larger conspiracy to unleash violence in Delhi, in which, Ishrat Jahan was instrumental, according to the charge sheet. The bail was granted to Ishrat Jahan after the order was reserved in the bail application last month.
The court in its order broke down the chargesheet by the Delhi Police and put forth several conditions on the basis of which bail was granted.
The conditions of bail ordered by the Court:
- Ishrat Jahan is to furnish a personal bond of Rs 50,000 with two local sureties.
- The court said that while on bail, the accused, Ishrat Jahan, was not allowed to leave the NCT of Delhi under any circumstances without the prior permission of the Court.
- She will not indulge in any criminal activity.
- She will not tamper with evidence or contact any witness in the case.
- She will cooperate with the investigation and not influence the investigation in any manner.
- She will attend every hearing of the court when directed to do so.
- She will not indulge in any activity, for which she is being tried.
What were the arguments put forth by Ishrat Jahan and her lawyers arguing for bail in the case
The lawyer for Ishrat Jahan, Pradeep Teotia, argued that Ishrat Jahan had been framed in the case due to “political vendetta”. She was arrested in FIR 44/2020 in which bail was granted on the 21st of March 2021. Once bail was given, on the same day, she was arrested in the present FIR (59/2020). The counsel said that she had not violated any conditions of her interim bail that she had got on account of her marriage and therefore, she should be given bail in the current matter.
The counsel argued that under section 43D of UAPA, there is no explicit bar to grant bail to the accused, moreover, according to him, there has been no prima facie evidence that Ishrat Jahan was involved in the conspiracy to commit violence during the Delhi Riots.
The counsel said that Jahan was not a member of any banned outfit or WhatsApp group that was perpetuating violence and that there is no video/CCTV evidence to suggest that she led a mob or indulged in violence. Throwing Amanatullah Khan under the bus, the counsel said that she was not a part of the meeting called by him to form JACT. It was alleged that the video footage shows her trying to calm the mob, and not incite the mob and no words uttered by her could be termed as ‘related to terror’.
The counsel also said that the arrest of the accused in the present FIR would mean “double jeopardy” due to FIR 44/20.
The counsel said that the prosecution has failed to show incriminatory messages exchanged between Amanatullah Khan, Devangana Kalita and the accused Ishrat Jahan. The only chat, the counsel admitted, is between Jahan and co-accused Tasleem, which are not ‘incriminatory’. It was also said that the prosecution has alleged 100 calls between Jahan and Khalid Saifi, however, no such calls were made.
Interestingly, the counsel admitted that 29 “0-second calls” were exchanged between Amanatullah Khan and Ishrat Jahan. However, there was no explanation provided as to why so many zero second calls were made between the two.
Ishrat Jahan argued that she had only protested against CAA in Khureji where no riot took place.
Interestingly, Jahan’s lawyer also said that Bheem Army has not been made a co-accused in the case and that the witnesses produced by the prosecution are not ‘trustworthy’. The counsel also dismissed all the witnesses, whose names have not been disclosed since they are state witnesses, by saying that there was either a delay in recording the statements or that the statements are too long and false.
What were the arguments put forth by the prosecution arguing against bail in the case
The prosecution first cited the provisions of CrPc and UAPA saying that the court had no jurisdiction pronouncing bail and hold a mini-trial on the merits of the case and that in a conspiracy case, the role of every individual is not in question and it is not necessary that they have participated in every act of the conspiracy since there are multiple accused, but only that they have played their role to further the conspiracy.
The prosecution further said the Delhi Riots were not a spontaneous outburst of violence rather it was a criminal act of causing planned violence under a deep-rooted conspiracy and this contention of the prosecution has been appreciated by the High Court in another case.
The creation of 23 protest sites, including Khureji, were not organic in nature and were indeed planned in a meticulous manner. The prosecution said categorically that the sites of the protest were strategically chosen next to Masjids. There were multiples teams to handle every protest, similar placards were made and the coordination to gather people at the protest site was evident from the chats included in the charge sheet.
The prosecution further said that as alleged by Ishrat Jahan, the protest sites were not dominated by women but were actively planned and coordinated with men. The prosecution here insinuated that the women were only a front for the protest.
Saying that there were similar threads between the December 2019 and 2020 violence as similar patterns were followed – blocking roads, attacking police personnel and the public and destroying property.
The prosecution said that the riots occurred in two phases – that of December 2019 and 2020 in which several police personnel were injured.
The prosecutor said that the weapons recovered, including petrol bombs being used to potentially create large explosions, large slingshots, stones, sharp weapons, guns etc show that the violence was premeditated. Saying this, the prosecutor vehemently reiterated that there was no doubt that all the accused were a part of the conspiracy, acting in a cold, calculated manner to create violence, create Chakka Jam to instigate large scale communal riots to embarrass the government of India and bring it down to its knees while the then President of USA, Donald Trump, was in the country.
What the prosecution said on the role of Ishrat Jahan in the Delhi Riots and the conspiracy thereof
The prosecutor also detailed the role of Ishrat Jahan in the conspiracy to spread large scale communal violence according to the chargesheet.
- The prosecutor said that Ishrat Jahan attended a meeting organised by AAP leader Amanatullah Khan and at Alia Madrasa at Khureji in connection with the initiation of the protest. She along with Khalid Saifi was instrumental in the organisation of the 24/7 protest site at Khureji. On the 26th February 2020, she had said that the “revolution has reached the 2nd stage”.
- On the 26th of February, Ishrat Jahan along with Khalid Saifi instigated people to attack police personnel and it was in this connection that FIR 44/20 was registered.
- She was a part of the conspiracy hatched by JCC and other groups to instigate violence.
- She delivered provocative speeches to instigate people against “other community” (Hindus) as well as the government of India.
- As the main organiser of the protest site, she called other speakers to the site like Sharjeel Imam, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Meeran Haider, Nadeem Khan etc to monitor the site and deliver speeches.
- She was involved in raising funds from unaccounted and illegal means to be used in the protest.
- She forced documents to hide her tracks.
- Illegitimate funds were used to acquire weapons for the riots.
- Her purpose was to create an Islamic state.
- She was aware of the purpose, objective and process of the conspiracy.
- At the Khureji protest site, women and children were used as a human shield and this was a part of the larger conspiracy hatched at DPSG.
- She is connected to all other accused in the case like Amanatullah Khan, Khalid Saifi, Tasleem Ahmad, Natasha Narwal, Safoora Zargar and others.
- There were 1097 calls and messages between Ishrat Jahan and Amanatullah Khan between 1st December 2019 and 26th February 2020.
- There was a deposit of Rs 4 lakh found in her account from one Mahadev Vijay Kaste. Kaste said that, on the instruction of his boss Samir Abdul Sai where he was working as a driver and took a loan against gold worth Rs 4,31,700. The gold itself was given to him by his employer and he was asked by his employer to transfer Rs 4 lakh to Ishrat Jahan.
- When interrogated, Samir Abdul Sai said that Imran Siddiqui was his business partner, who was a relative of Ishrat Jahan and also wanted to hide the track of the money because it was to be used for the protests.
- Siddiqui confirmed the transfer of the money to Ishrat Jahan.
- To hide the transfer of money, a fake agreement was drawn up between Siddiqui and Sai, however, the agreement does not have the signature of Siddiqui.
- The date of the agreement is shown as 26th November 2019 but the entry by the Notary is made on 13th April 2020.
- The partnership deed was prepared after Siddiqui was asked to join the investigation
- Apart from this, cash of Rs 1,41,000 was deposited in Ishrat Jahan’s account and the same could not be explained by Jahan.
- One witness, Peter, said that Ishrat Jahan had got illegal funds to organise the protest and acquire arms through Abdul Khalid. One country-made weapon was also recovered from JCL arrested under FIR 44/20.
It was based on this evidence that the prosecutor said that there was prima facie evidence against Ishrat Jahan and that the bail application should be dismissed.
What the court said while granting bail to Ishrat Jahan – Break up of the conspiracy in 50 points
The court made several observations while releasing Ishrat Jahan on bail, particularly, that of her being a woman.
- The court said that section 437 CrPc places additional conditions for releasing someone on bail even if there are reasonable grounds to believe that they are guilty by death or life imprisonment. Notably, the court says that it especially gives these provisions for women.
- 43D of UAPA also has special provisions to provide bail to the accused. The court then said that if the court believes that the charges in the charge sheet are prima facie true, according to this section, bail cannot be granted to the accused.
- The conditions of a conspiracy are generally based on circumstantial evidence and it is not necessary that the conspirators knew of all the details of the conspiracy.
- The present case pertains to a large scale conspiracy to create violence in Delhi in 2020.
- Sharjeel Imam formed a group called Muslims Students of JNU (MSJ) and started distributing pamphlets at mosques against CAA/NRC.
- There was coordination between Sharjeel Imam and Arshad from the Students of Jamia group for the distribution of pamphlets from the 6th of December 2019 onwards.
- United Against Hate (UAH) organised a protest on the 7th of December 2019 and Sharjeel Imam wanted students of AMU, JNU etc to join the protest.
- The protest on the 7th was attended by Sharjeel Imam, Yogendra Yadav, Umar Khalid and others. It was there, according to the charge sheet, that the idea for Chakka Jam was initialised.
- On the 8th, a meeting took place at Jungpura and a WhatsApp group was formed on the same day. Subsequently, a protest was planned for the 10th of December.
- Sharjeel Imam then made his seditious speeches at Jamia and violence ensued.
- Chakka Jam began after the meeting of Sharjeel Imam, Asif Iqbal Tanha and Umar Khalid in Jamia on the 13th of December 2019. This model of Chakka Jam then spread to the rest of Delhi.
- Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC) was constituted on the 17th of December 2019 and Gate 7 was declared as the protest site. Safoora Zargar then made a Whatsapp group called JMI Coordination Committee for communication with JCC members in which several accused were present including Amanatullah. The mobile number for this was activated with forged documents.
- Shaheen Bagh protest site was then created to show as if the protest was being led by women but the reality was different. It was the brainchild of Sharjeel Imam.
- On the 22nd of December, Jamia Awareness Campaign Team (JACT) is formed for mass local mobilisation. It is on the 23rd of December that a meeting between Sharjeel Imam, Khalid Saifi and Meeran Halder is held at Shaheen Bagh where it is decided to create a protest site at Khureji as well (this is the protest site that Ishrat Jahan was responsible for).
- On the 24th of December, a protest takes place at Jantar Mantar and it was attended by many including Yogendra Yadav, Umar Khalid etc. Provocative speeches were also made by all present. On the 26th of December, a meeting took place between Umar Khalid, Khalid Saifi, Nadeem Khan, Rahul Roy, Sabha Dewan and others and they decided to create DPSG (WhatsApp group).
- They decided that the protest sites would be women-centric to avoid police action.
- The protest sites were to be set up in Muslim majority areas.
- On the 28th of December, the DPSG Whatsapp group was formed with the top people included.
- All the groups, according to the charge sheet, were working in tandem.
- 23 protest sites had been developed and throughout January, Sharjeel Imam continued to give provocative speeches.
- On the 8th of January, a meeting took place in the PFI office at Shaheen Bagh between Tahir Hussain, Umar Khalid and Khalid Saifi.
- On 14th January, news of President Donald Trump visiting India surfaced in the news.
- On 15th January, Sharjeel Imam went to the Khureji site for local mobilisation at the request of Amanatullah.
- Meeran Haider was supervising 8 protest sites.
- A conspirational meeting took place on the intervening night of 23rd and 24th January between Pinjra Tod members and Umar Khalid where it was decided to get local Muslim women to start collecting weapons. The plan was to escalate the protests.
- On 24th, Sharjeel Imam continued to propagate and instigate Chakka Jam through his Facebook post.
- On 24th January, Safoora removed Asif Iqbal Tanha and Chandan from the JMI group because they were summoned by the police.
- On 6th February, a protest site came up at Jahangir Puri. Umar Khalid met with the protesting folks and said that since the area is dominated by Bangladeshis, they should be made aware of CAA and NRC.
- On 11th Feb, there was a flurry of activity by Rahul Roy and Anjali Bhardwaj after the formal dates of Trump’s visit were announced.
- On 13th Feb, they decide that artist protest sites were becoming unsustainable, so they change tact and get Mahila Ekta Yatra to start visiting protest sites and reporting in the DPSG group.
- On the midnight of 16th and 17th Feb, a secret meeting took place at Chand Bagh where several accused including Natasha and Devangana were present. The decision to do Chakka Jam and violent protest as Trump visited was taken at this meeting.
- On 17th Feb, Umar Khalid delivered a speech at Amravati, Maharashtra, clearly referring to the visit of Donald Trump.
- Owais Sultan Khan, a member of the DPSG group was repeatedly messaging about the secret meeting and plan to create violence. He said that locals did not want violence and Chakka Jam but outsiders were planning the violence. He said that Athar had spoken about violence and Chakka Jam.
- Between 18th to 21st Feb, the DPSG group become unusually silent and no rebuttal was offered about the secret meeting and plans for violence.
- On the 22nd Feb, people from Madina Masjid, Seelampur, moved to do Chakka Jam at Jaffrabad.
- Immediately after Chakka Jam, a JCC meeting was called to escalate protests in Muslim majority areas and use violence.
- The protestors from other sites come to Jaffrabad to learn the modus operandi from an ongoing, successful Chakka Jam.
- Bhim Army calls for a march to Rajghat to protest against CAA and NRC.
- On the 22nd of Feb, Owais Sultan specifically says that if something wrong was to happen, Athar would be blamed. He said that when the local woman pleaded with the Pinjra Tod members and others to not do Chakka Jam, they said, “Kafan baandh ke aaye hai, aur jo humare saath nahi wo desh ka gaddar hai”.
- On the 23rd of February, Janhavi, Rahul Roy and Tabrej were involved in the clandestine transportation of several women to Jaffrabad via Shaheen Bagh. They were received by Devangana, Natasha and Gulfisha. According to the charge sheet, they were the ones who started stone pelting the police officers initially.
- On 23rd, Owais Sultan again asked why comments about Chakka Jam were deleted and why packets of red chilli powder have been distributed to women.
- In secret meetings held on the 22nd and 23rd of Feb, violence was openly discussed including collecting and using arms. This was revealed by 3 witnesses who were present at the meeting.
- In the Supplementary Chargesheet, it is clearly shown that protestors were being mobilised. This is prior to 26 out of 33 CCTV cameras becoming dysfunctional on the 24th Feb.
- The large scale mobilisation was done to create riots in Chand Bagh where even Ratan Lal was murdered. The violence started 10 minutes after the last CCTV camera became dysfunctional.
- As per the charge sheet, on the analysis of 33 CCTV cameras of Chand Bagh and Mustafabad and 43 CCTV cameras of predominantly non-Muslim areas of Khnjuri Khas, Karawal Nagar, Sonia Vihar and Jyoti Nagar, shows that not only the riots were premeditated and preplanned but also began when the Muslims living in Chand Bagh, Mustatabad area mobilized and came out of lanes and bye-lanes passing through Chand Bagh and descended on Main Wazirabad road with Yamuna Vihar and Bhajanpura localities having a mixed population to put into effect a violent chakka-jam and mount a brutal attack on police personnel and non-Muslims community while at the same time, the footages from the PWD cameras at the places inhibited by non-Muslims communities showed the life to be tranquil.
- The court said that the footage does show premeditated and planned violence erupting.
- When the violence erupted, Anas Tanvir posted in the DPSG group saying that the development was premeditated and disturbing.
- In the group, when messages about the planned violence started being posted, Rahul Roy said that people should refrain from posting such messages because they were being shared in other groups.
- After riots erupted, the group started adding other people to show humanitarian concern.
- After riots began on the 24th, a flurry of calls and messages were exchanged, including between Umar Khalid and Natasha of Pinjra Tod. Several accused reached a common place to meet.
- The first arrest was made on the 11th of March and after that, people were asked to delete their messages in the group.
- The court said that it is true that firearms were collected and different roles were assigned to different people in the furtherance of this conspiracy.
The court said that for the purpose of the bail application, sections of UAPA must be analysed. The court also acknowledged that taken at its face value, everything that happened and is mentioned in the charge sheet amounts to acts of terrorism.
As for the role of Ishrat Jahan, the court said that the charge sheet pertains to various individuals who played different roles in the furtherance of the conspiracy. The court said that at this stage, the court has to determine whether the charges against the accused are prima facie true and citing a case, the court said that the burden to determine that at this stage is “light”.
As per the charge sheet, the court was of the opinion that Ishrat Jahan was not a part of the groups and that the idea of Chakka Jam was not hers and that while she was a part of the Khureji protest site, the site itself is not in North East Delhi, where the riots took place.
The court said that it is true that violence erupted at Khureji as well and police were attacked, but for that, FIR 44/20 is already there. Even if she was connected with several of the accused, the court was of the opinion that she was not present in NE Delhi and was not visible in the CCTV footage. The court said that the statement of the witnesses say that she made provocative speeches and it is true that it might have led others to partake in the violence. Further, about the money, the court said that the aspect was already covered in FIR 44/20.
The court said that the money received by Jahan connects her to Khalid Saifi, who was connected to the riots and it needs to be reiterated that bail does not mean that the court is discharging her of the accusations.
Saying this, the court said that it is inclined to grant bail to Ishrat Jahan despite the provisions in CrPc and UAPA that don’t allow for the same.
The court also specifically mentions that Ishrat Jahan is a woman.
It would therefore appear that the court took the decision to give bail to Ishrat Jahan despite embargoes in CrPc and UAPA and also because she is a woman.
Arrest of Ishrat Jahan
Jahan was arrested on February 26 for the charges under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 353 (assault on public servant), 332 (voluntarily causes hurt to public servant), 307 (attempt to murder), 109 (abetment), and 34 (common intention) of the IPC and relevant sections of the Arms Act.