A HOLIDAY court of the Dindoshi sessions court Sunday granted bail to the 29 people arrested on Saturday for protesting the tree-cutting at Aarey for the Mumbai Metro 3 project.
While granting bail, the court observed that most of the protesters arrested were students and women and that there was no need to keep them in jail.
While the bail hearing was scheduled to be heard on Monday, a holiday court that hears urgent matters on fresh remand applications, heard the pleas on Sunday. A senior officer said there was urgency in ensuring those arrested were released immediately, as the arrests, including of six women and students that led to them spending a night at prison, had invited public criticism.
Section 144 was also revoked late evening on Sunday.
“On hearing the rival submissions made by both sides and on perusing record, it appears to this court that, that the applicants were protesting in ‘Aarey forest’. It is social issue also,” additional sessions judge HC Shende said while granting the accused bail. They had been arrested and charged under sections including assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty and voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty and unlawful assembly of the Indian Penal Code.
After they were sent to judicial custody on Saturday, lawyers representing them had moved for bail on grounds including that some were students who had to write exams on Monday. On Saturday court had granted permission to them for appearing for their exams under police escort.
The holiday court directed all the 29 be released on a surety bond or personal bond of Rs 7,000 each. Other conditions included attending the police station once every fortnight and co-operate with the investigation. The police did not object to the bail plea either with the prosecutor submitting that a suitable order be passed by the court.
Earlier in the day, Aarey wore a desolate look as police did not allow vehicles to proceed towards the car shed area. People were asked to walk as the police continued to barricade entry points to Metro 3 car shed area at Aarey.
Meanwhile, parents, friends and relatives of the 29 people who were arrested on Saturday, gathered at a school in Goregaon (east) to condemn the treatment meted out to the protesters. “I don’t understand why my son would assault a policeman. He only protested through songs. He has been utilising the right given to him by the Constitution. Given his interest in environment, he got involved in the protests. When he came to know that trees are being felled, he could hardly eat. What wrong did the government see in this?” asked Vidya Poddar, talking about her son Divyang.
“The government has been restricting youth who want to do something for their country. For the sake of their future, the government should quash charges against them,” she added.
Shobha Salve, whose nephew Siddharth Sakpale was among the arrested, alleged, “Haven’t we taught them to save trees? Young environment activists are being arrested whereas policemen misbehave with young girls from the group.”
Amrita Bhattacharjee, a member of Aarey Conservation Group which is coordinating on the issue, said, “It is unfortunate that protesters have been arrested on criminal charges. All charges against students and citizens need to be quashed as soon as possible.”