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SC grants bail to 21 PFI men held for violence in Mangaluru anti-CAA stir

The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted bail to 21 alleged members of the Popular Front of India (PFI), arrested for arson and violence during the anti-CAA protests in Mangaluru on December 19, 2019.

Hearing an appeal by Karnataka, the apex court had, on March 6, stayed the bail order of a single judge of state High Court.

Granting them the relief, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, however, made it clear that the “observations of the High Court on question of fact and law (in the bail order) are obviously made prima facie and shall not affect the trial”.

SC said in its order: “Having regard to the observation of the High Court that it was not possible to prima facie determine the presence of the accused persons at the spot, and without treating the said observation as final finding of the fact, we consider it appropriate to direct that the applicants be released on bail on furnishing bail bonds of Rs 25,000 each to the satisfaction of the trial court pending trial.”

The court also asked them to report to the nearest police station “every alternative Monday” and to ensure that they “do not participate in any violent activities/meetings”.

The accused had initially moved the sessions court for bail but it was rejected, after which they approached the High Court.

While granting them bail, HC Justice John Michael Cunha made several adverse remarks against the investigation and police in the order. The order stated, “The material collected by the investigating agency does not contain any specific evidence as to the presence of any one of the petitioners at the spot.”

It said, “In an offence involving a large number of accused, identity and participation of each accused must be fixed with reasonable certainty. In the present cases, a perusal of records indicate that identity of the accused appear to have been fixed on the basis of their affiliation to PFI, and they being members of Muslim community.”

The state contested the HC order, saying it “has not considered the clear evidence produced by the prosecution”.

Source: The Indian Express

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