“Bail is a rule and jail is an exception”: Delhi court invoked ‘well-settled’ principle of law to grant bail to journalist Mandeep Punia, arrested by Delhi Police from farmers’ protest site

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A Delhi court on Tuesday said that the bail was a ‘rule and jail is an exception’ while granting bail to freelance journalist Mandeep Punia, arrested by the Delhi Police from the farmers’ protest sie over the weekend.

Mandeep Punia

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Satvir Singh Lamba of the Rohini court granted bail to Punia on furnishing bail bond in a sum of Rs 25,000 along with one sound surety in the like amount.

The judge noted in his order that the alleged scuffle incident, claimed by the Delhi Police, had taken place around 6.30 PM. However, the judge continued, ‘the present FIR was registered at around 1.21 AM on the next day.’ “Admittedly, the accused is a freelance journalist. Moreso, no recovery is to be effected from the accused person and keeping the accused further in Judicial Custody would not serve any cogent purpose.”

Judge Lamba then invoked the ‘well settled legal principle of law’ that ‘bail is a rule and jail is an exception.’

The judge said, “Hence, considering the totality of facts and circumstances of the present case, submissions on behalf of both the parties as well as keeping in view the period of detention of the accused in judicial custody, he is admitted to bail on furnishing bail bond in a sum of Rs 25,000 along with one sound surety in the like amount.”

Mandeep Punia, who contributed to The Caravan was arrested from the Singhu border, the site of the farmers’ protest. He was presented in a court inside Tihar Jail where Metropolitan Magistrate Akhil Malik has sent him to 14-Day of judicial custody.

Mandeep Punia had sought to expose the nexus between the Delhi Police and BJP members in Friday’s violence at the Singhu border hours before his arrest. In his viral Facebook LIVE, the intrepid journalist had shared evidence that sought to establish links between the perpetrators of violence on Friday with that of the ruling BJP.

His arrest followed by denial of bail had evoked strong reactions. Ace Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia had taken to Twitter to ask why the Supreme Court, which had moved with a lightning speed in Arnab Goswami’s case, was silent on the freelance journalist.

Last year, the Supreme Court had held an extraordinary hearing to grant Arnab Goswami of Republic TV bail days after he was arrested in an abetment to suicide case. The Supreme Court had ordered his release even though the controversial anchor’s plea was pending before a lower court.

Senior lawyer Dushyant Dave, who was the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association then, had raised serious questions on India’s top court’s integrity on extending preferential treatment to Goswami. In a hard-hitting letter to the Supreme Court Registry, Dave had asked if the special treatment meted out to Goswami was at the behest of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde.

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