Parliament breach: Delhi HC refuses Neelam Azad urgent hearing on police remand

The Delhi High Court on Thursday refused urgent listing of a plea by Neelam Azad, an woman arrested in the December 13 Parliament security breach case, who alleged that her police remand was illegal as she was not allowed to consult a legal practitioner of her choice to defend her during the trial court proceedings.

The matter was mentioned for urgent hearing by her lawyer before a vacation bench of Justices Neena Bansal Krishna and Shalinder Kaur, which said there was no urgency in the matter.

“In any case it will be taken up on 3rd (January). There is no urgency,” the bench said.

Azad’s lawyer said she has challenged her remand order and on January 5, her police custody was getting over.

Turning down the request, the court responded there was still “enough time” for the hearing to take place before the remand came to an end.

In her petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus directing her production before the high court as well as an order to “set her at liberty,” Azad said that being disallowed to consult a lawyer of her choice amounted to violation of her fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution, making the remand order unlawful.

The trial court has remanded her in police custody till January 5.

Under Indian laws, a detainee or a person on their behalf can file a habeas corpus petition in a high court or the Supreme Court for their production if they feel they have been detained illegally.

Upon production, if the court concerned concludes that the detention is illegal, it can order their release.

“Upon her arrest, the petitioner’s family wasn’t informed. It was informed only in the evening of 14.12.2023. Further, she wasn’t permitted to meet any person including advocates which is mandatory under Article 22(1) of the Constitution of India. Even at the court a single DLSA (Delhi Legal Services Authority) counsel was appointed to all the accused persons without giving them any choice among counsels,” the plea, filed through lawyer Suresh Kumar, has alleged.

“The remand order dated 21.12.2023 is illegal and violative of Article 22(1) of the Constitution of India which mandates the accused person to be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice whereas in the present case the petitioner’s advocate wasn’t permitted to take instructions and defend the petitioner prior to the disposal of the remand application,” the plea added.

The petition also said Azad was produced before the trial court on December 14 “after a period of 29 hours from the time of arrest.”

Article 22(2) of the Constitution says that every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24 hours of arrest excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the magistrate and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate

On December 21, the trial court extended till January 5 the police custody of four accused, including Azad, arrested in the Parliament security breach case, after the city police said they needed to uncover all those involved in the conspiracy.

While the four were arrested on the very day of the incident, two others were apprehended later.

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Recently, the high court stayed the trial court’s direction to the police to supply a copy of the FIR to Azad, noting that it is a case of sensitive nature and, according to a judgment of the Supreme Court, FIRs in sexual offences, offences pertaining to insurgency, terrorism, and those under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act are not to be uploaded on website of the authorities.

In a major security breach on the anniversary of the 2001 Parliament terror attack on December 13, two men — Sagar Sharma and Manoranjan D — jumped into the Lok Sabha chamber from the public gallery during Zero Hour, released yellow gas from canisters and shouted slogans before being overpowered by some MPs.

Around the same time, two others — Amol Shinde and Neelam Azad — sprayed coloured gas from canisters while shouting “tanashahi nahi chalegi” outside the Parliament House premises.

Besides the four accused, police have also arrested Lalit Jha and Mahesh Kumawat in the case. All are being interrogated in police custody.

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