IMAGE: Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad was earlier restrained from visiting Delhi for four weeks and holding any ‘dharna‘ till the elections in the national capital are over. Photograph: Ravi Choudhary/PTI Photo
A Delhi court Tuesday allowed Bhim Army Chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad, accused of giving ‘inflammatory speeches’ during an anti-Citizenship Act protest at Jama Masjid in New Delhi last month, to visit Delhi for medical reasons and election purposes, while modifying the conditions imposed on him while granting him bail in the case.
Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau directed Azad to register his presence at the Station House Officer (SHO) of Fatehpur police station in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, every Saturday for four weeks and on the last Saturday of every month.
“If he is in Delhi, he should inform about his schedule to the DCP of Crime Branch, New Delhi, and mark his presence there. If he is anywhere else, he should inform the DCP of Crime Branch, New Delhi about his whereabouts.
“He can visit Delhi for treatment of his medical condition and election purposes or any other purpose, but he should inform the DCP of Crime Branch about his schedule. He can stay in Delhi at his friend’s place at the address given to the court,” the court said.
It passed the directions on a plea filed by Azad seeking modification of the conditions imposed on him when the court had granted him bail in a case related to violent protests in old Delhi’s Daryaganj area on December 20.
The plea said the Bhim Army Chief had an office in the national capital where he held weekly meetings for his social cause.
The court said: “Election is the biggest festival in a democracy. Everybody has the right to participate in it and in fact we call for maximum participation. But while participating in election, the same time the rights of others should not be violated. Democracy cannot be a farce.
“If the (bail) conditions come in the way of Azad’s participation in the elections, then conditions imposed on him shall be modified.”
It had earlier restrained Azad from visiting Delhi for four weeks and directed him to not hold any ‘dharna’ till the elections in the national capital, while granting him bail in the case.
The court also slammed the police for opposing Azad’s plea on the basis of “apprehensions”, and not material evidence, that he posed a threat to law and order situation in the state.
The judge asked the DCP if they have found any material which confirmed that his visit to Delhi might create a law and order problem here.
“You (police) are seeking cancellation of his bail on the basis of apprehensions. One week has passed, do you have nay material to show Azad’s visits to Delhi was prejudicial to law and order, public order and national security? Was there any problem in the past one week. Do not submit apprehensions. Give only material evidence in the court.”
“If he has a place in Delhi and wants to participate in elections, you cannot deny an electorate from doing so,” said the judge.
The Additional Public Prosecutor, appearing for the police, said there have been no adverse situation in Delhi due to Azad’s visit in the past one week and the police has found no material against him.
He said however that the police has apprehensions Azad will repeat the offences committed by him before but failed to specify them.
When the judge pressed to know what the offences were, the counsel said he had given ‘hate speeches’ before.
To this, the judge pointed out that the Bhim Army Chief was not booked for the offence of giving ‘hate speeches’ in any of the first information reports registered against him till date.
The Additional Public Prosecutor told the court that Azad was not the owner of the property which he claimed to be his office in Delhi and its owner was one Bahadur Abbas who had rented the property to some other person.
The police also sought cancellation of bail for “willfully” violating the conditions of the order of the bail.
“Azad has scant respect for the law of the land. The court had in its order dated January 15, 2019, permitted him to visit Jama Masjid, Jor Bagh and Guru Ravidas Temple to pay his obeisance. However, he willfully disobeyed the court’s order. Apart from visiting the three places, he also visited Shri Valmiki Temple and addressed a press conference at Windsor Place.
“Moreover, at Jama Masjid, from where he was arrested, he apart from paying obeisance, addressed the public and interacted with media persons in violation of the court’s orders,” the police said in its reply.
The public prosecutor said Azad had claimed in his plea that he held weekly meetings at Ambedkar Bhavan, but a member of the committee and the cashier have confirmed no such meeting has been held and the Bhim Army Chief has not visited the place for the past 4-5 months.
The counsels appearing for Azad, advocates Mehmood Pracha and O P Bharti, told the court the Delhi address given to the court was not an address of a political party.
“Abbas is the registered owner of the property and he was a friend of Azad. There is no rent agreement in Azad’s name. It is a mutual understanding that Azad stays there whenever he is in Delhi.
“Azad is the only person whose presence poses a problem for the police. This is violative of his fundamental rights. Why can’t he visit Delhi during the elections? If he is not here, how will he address his followers?,” the counsel said.
Pracha added that Azad had just read the preamble to the Constitution at Jama Masjid, to which the judge said, “Everybody should read it every day.”