Fifteen protesters arrested during violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Old Delhi's Daryaganj were today sent to two days' judicial custody by a Tis Hazari court.
The court will hear their bail applications on Monday.
While police had taken the 15 accused into custody when a protest near Delhi Gate on Friday descended into violence, they arrested Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad from the vicinity of Jama Masjid this morning. However, he was not produced in court along with the other protesters.
The Delhi Police had sought 14 days' judicial custody for the 15 protesters. Advocate Rebecca John, who represents the accused in the case, opposed the police's request by saying they had been arrested for bailable offences and that one of the sections applied against them by the police -- 436 of the Indian Penal Code -- cannot be invoked in this case.
"Section 436 can be invoked for a crime where an explosive substance is used to set a house or other property on fire. Here, a car parked on the road was set on fire. A plain reading of Section 436 shows that it cannot be invoked in this case. Nevertheless, none of the accused produced here had any role to play in this," Ms John told the court.
The advocate claimed that the only objective of the police was to put the accused behind bars, thereby scuttling their right to protest in a democracy. "Also, as none of the 15 men here know each other, how can criminal conspiracy be evoked against them?" she asked.
Chandrashekhar Azad's advocate expressed concern over his whereabouts, given that he was not brought to court. "We don't even know whether he is alive or not. As the investigation officer is here, he should answer why he alone has not been produced," he said.
A senior police officer said that the 31-year-old Bhim Army chief, who has been arrested on charges of inciting the mob, is being questioned and will be produced in court within 24 hours.
On Friday, the Delhi Police had denied Chandrashekhar Azad permission to take out a protest march against the Citizenship Amendment Act from Jama Masjid to Jantar Mantar in the heart of the city. He defied the ban, doing just that.
"My name is Chandrashekhar Azad. Police cannot hold me captive. I wore a cap and a shawl and entered the masjid easily," he told news agency PTI.
The Citizenship Amendment Act for the first time makes religion the test of citizenship in India. The government says it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries get citizenship if they fled to India because of religious persecution. Critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the constitution.