Retd K’taka judge says denying bail to Amulya after 3 months is 'denial of justice’

She has been jail for three months and this is not a murder trial says the judge.
Amulya Leona
Amulya Leona

The bail application for Bengaluru-based student Amulya Leona who was arrested three months ago for saying 'Pakistan Zindabad' thrice on stage has been dismissed by the Karnataka High Court with a direction that the petitioner may approach a sessions court.

Amulya’s advocate withdrew the bail petition due to the directions given by Justice K Natarajan. However the HC gave liberty to the petitioner to approach the court after exhausting remedies at the sessions court.

For Amulya's legal team, this has come as setback as they had first approached the sessions court and turned to the HC only when the petition did not make any progress in the lower court.

Retired Karnataka HC judge, Justice MF Saldanha has called this a "denial of justice”.

"Naturally, if the sessions court was not hearing it, and if you or I are arrested then we cannot sit in jail indefinitely. If you apply for bail and the court says 'I am busy' and the bail application is not heard, then that itself is a denial of justice unless there is a valid reason," Justice (retired) MF Saldanha said.

He said as a judge he also does not support the idea of bypassing courts but he can understand if someone is doing it out of desperation.

He said, “She has been jail for three months and this is not a murder trial or one of those trials where a bail cannot be given. In this case, I don't see why she has to sit in jail as one can't be presumed to be guilty.”

He also added that he believed the High Court judge should have asked the sessions court to hear the petition soon. “When a person comes for bail, it's a question of deprivation of liberty. Somehow or the other, the court should hear the matter. If the application is repeatedly not heard, and based on these facts if I was the High Court judge, then I would have asked the sessions court why this case was not heard. So the right remedy is to direct the sessions court saying 'hear the girl's plea and give a decision'.”

The retired judge said even the lockdown is not a good reason for not hearing her case.

"If the lockdown is a reason, I won't say that is a non-issue given it has also affected the court's functioning but at the same time we have to have some balance. I can't tell you there is a lockdown and that's why markets are closed and therefore, you can starve. That is not the answer. Something has to be done," he added.

The Karnataka state government had also cited this particular reason in its detailed submission to the HC where they opposed her bail. Relying on a Supreme Court judgement passed in light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which said that under trial prisoners facing trial with an imprisonment up to 7 years or less shall be tried only by the concerned Jurisdictional District and Session Court during the lockdown period, the state government had prayed that the bail petition be dismissed.

It may also be recalled that among other reasons the state government in its submission has termed Amulya as an influential person.

Commenting on this, the former HC judge said that these are usual replies by the government in criminal cases but “it's not the right thing to do and these reasons have to be substantiated”.

The part of the state government’s petition had said, “The Petitioner being an influential person may threaten and influence the witnesses and hamper the case of the prosecution.  The petitioner fleeing from justice is also not ruled out."

It may be recalled Amulya was arrested on February 20 as she was about to speak at an anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act rally in Bengaluru where AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi was the chief guest.

She was booked for sedition, promoting enmity between different groups and imputations and other sections of the Indian Penal Code. Since then she has remained in jail for the last three months.

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