The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to two NGO activists, Kalyani Badola and Tanvi Nair, who were sent to jail by a trial court along with a rape victim for alleged contempt in Bihar’s Araria district.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, while granting bail to the two activists, observed that the order directing their judicial custody was “impermissible” in law.
Justice Mishra said it is a “totally impermissible order by which they were sent to custody.”
Advocate Vrinda Grover represented the two social workers.
The bench, which included Justices B.R.Gavai and Krishna Murari, while issuing notice to Bihar government on the activists’ plea, said: “Until further orders, we direct the release of the petitioners on bail on furnishing personal bond for a sum of Rs 10,000 each.”
The petitioners said they were forced to move the apex court directly in view of the extraordinary situation prevailing in the country on account of the Covid pandemic. They had been held along with a 23-year-old gang rape survivor from Araria, in Dalsinghsarai jail in Bihar’s Samastipur district. A local court had granted the woman bail on July 18 but the two activists had been denied bail.
The duo were earlier sent to judicial custody for alleged contempt on July 10.
The petitioners said they were sent into custody while providing support to the gang rape victim/survivor, and explaining her traumatised situation to the judicial magistrate.
“The gang rape survivor, in her anguished state, had expressed uncertainty and anxiety which was misunderstood by the learned magistrate and he expressed anger and took offence at the victim and the petitioners/support persons during proceedings under Section 164 CrPC,” the petitioners said.
Following a public outcry, the gang rape victim was released two days after their arrest. However, the two activists continued to be in jail, following which they filed the petition in the apex court.
“The petitioners have now suffered incarceration for over 20 days, and who are without redress since hearings in all courts have been suspended in Bihar, including hearing in urgent matters, in the face of a severe outbreak of the Covid epidemic. The petitioners have no criminal antecedents and are persons with deep roots in society,” their petition said.