Amid high drama, Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and other members of the Aam Aadmi Party were on Tuesday "released" by a Delhi court after they appeared before it following summonses for alleged involvement in rioting cases the capital last year.
The court released Kejriwal, Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and 23 others on an undertaking that they will appear before it to face trial in the case after they refused to seek bail before it.
Bhushan objected to the use of words "released on bail" in the initial order, which was later changed by the judge by dropping the word bail from the order.
The courtroom at the Patiala House was jam-packed with the supporters and AAP members who shouted "no bail, no bail" while the order was pronounced.
"All the aforesaid accused are released, subject to their signing this order as acknowledgement of their undertaking to this court that they will face trial, appear on all the dates of hearing and abide by the conditions imposed by this court, during trial," Metropolitan Magistrate Jay Thareja said and fixed the matter for further hearing on February 23.
Kejriwal and other AAP members appeared before the court following summonses issued against them in connection with three separate cases for allegedly violating prohibitory orders imposed under Section 144 of the CrPC during their protest on the coal blocks allocation scam in August last year at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence and other places.
During the day's proceedings, they told the court they will not seek bail in the case as the police has filed false cases against them to harass and curb their protest.
The magistrate, however, said that he was bound to grant them bail in the case.
"The law says if the accused appears before the court after filing of charge sheet in such cases, accused should be granted bail. I need atleast a surety. I cannot violate the law of the land," the magistrate said and told the accused that he would conduct an expeditious trial in the case.
In response, Kejriwal told the court that they respect the law of the land but whether to take bail is their right and they have decided not to take bail in the case.
"We respect the law and your (magistrate's) position. Our only weapon is truth and we are on that way only. We deliberately violated Sec 144 and we are ready to face the punishment. We have decided not to seek bail in this case," he said.
Bhushan, an accused in the case, argued that the imposition of Sec 144 by Delhi police was "illegal" and in violation of the orders passed by the Supreme Court.
"The point here is that this (imposition of Sec 144) has become the easiest way for police or the government to harass activists and political opponents...the chargesheet and trial is itself a punishment for us," he said.
Bhushan further said that Sec 144 is a provision, which is meant to take care of an emergency situation only.
"How can the police apprehend that there was threat to law and order if we will march to PM's residence? We have been holding protests during our anti corruption movement for a long time and nowhere we have indulged in any violent protest," he said.
Similarly, Sisodia and another AAP leader Kumar Vishwas, told the court that these are false cases registered by the police just to curb their anti-corruption protest against the government.
All the accused repeatedly told the court that they will not seek bail and will not furnish any bail bond or personal bond for their release.
According to the chargesheet, on August 26 last year, these accused had violated Sec 144 and had staged protest outside the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi against the alleged coal block allocation scam case.
The police has said that they accused had also damaged public property during the protest and some of their senior officers were injured by them.
The police had registered three FIRs against them under various sections of the IPC which deal with rioting, unlawful assembly and use of force to obstruct public servants from discharging their duty as well as section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act. PTI ABA HMP
As the hearing commenced in the case, the magistrate asked Bhushan and others if they are moving any bail application or not.
Bhushan told the court that they have decided not to seek bail and narrated the entire sequence of events, which happened on August 26 last year during the protest.
Additional Public prosecutor Rajat Kalra told the judge that if the accused are given bail, the court should insist on furnishing of surety bonds.
However, Kejriwal countered the submission saying that the court should adopt a "proactive approach" and release them on their personal undertaking or they would prefer to go to jail in protest against the "misuse of the police by the state."
The court dismissed the contentions of the prosecutor saying, "Keeping in view the fact that in the present case, the state has filed the charge sheet without arresting the accused and trusted them to appear before this court, the request made by the APP is declined."
The court also issued fresh summonses against two of the accused, who did not appear before it during the proceedings.
During the arguments, Bhushan told the court that there were many cameras of various TV channels during the protest and the police should have filed the video footage along with the chargesheet.
The magistrate told Bhushan and others that they should trust the system and also assured them that trial will be completed within six months. "I am saying that if you will have trust in our system and will face the trial, you will get the opportunity to defend yourself...I know people believe in our system and I can assure you that trial will be completed within six months," the judge said.
The court further said that it is getting the impression that the accused "wants to be punished" to show that they are being harassed by the system.