The Karnataka High Cort has granted bail to a 33-year-old woman, allegedly a Pakistani national, who has spent 16 months in custody with her two-and-a-half-year-old child, after being arrested under the Foreigners Act.
Granting bail to Khatija Mehreen, who was arrested in 2021 in Uttara Kannada district, Justice Shivashankar Amarannavar said, “In the bail petition it is categorically stated that there is no prima facie case made out against the petitioner, but unfortunately is that the petitioner has become scapegoat in the hand of the complainant-police and she should not be detained in judicial custody merely on suspicion or doubt.” A case against her is pending before the Principal Civil Judge, Bhatkal on various charges under the Foreigners Act and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Based on information from the Intelligence Department the police had obtained permission from the Magistrate to conduct a search operation. On June 9, 2021, the police had conducted the search in Bhatkal. Khatija Mehreen, allegedly a Pakistani woman staying in India since 2014 was arrested. The police also seized, Aadhar card, PAN card, Ration card, Voter ID and other forged documents allegedly in her name.
The woman approached the HC seeking bail, stating that she was in custody for the last one year and four months. She claimed that she was born in Bhatkal in 1998 and studied in Naunihal Centrla School. She was married to Javeed Mohiddin who died on April 22, 2022 when she was in custody. She has three children aged 7, 5 and 2.5. The last child is with her in jail.
The HC felt that she deserved to be released on bail. “The petitioner/accused is already in judicial custody since more than 1 year 4 months and long incarceration may not be necessary as the offences are not punishable with death or imprisonment for life,” the HC said. It noted that the punishment for which she was charged under Foreigners Act was punishable with maximum imprisonment for five years while the charges under IPC against her had a maximum sentence of 7 years.
“The child aged 2.5 years of the petitioner is residing with her in the prison, therefore in my view, by imposing stringent conditions the petitioner/accused is entitled to be enlarged on bail,” the HC said in its recent judgement.
However, the court made it clear that she cannot have free movement outside. “It is made clear that though the Court is enlarging the petitioner on bail, she cannot be given any free movements to wander across India as per her whims and fancies till the government decides whether she has to be deported to her mother country or not,” the HC said.
Though released on bail, she will be placed in a “Detention Center with all facilities and if she is acquitted in the case registered against her, the Government firstly has to take appropriate steps as to the determination of the petitioner’s nationality by the Competent Authorities and whether she is still to be deported to her mother country and thereafter only appropriate action can be taken by the Government.” If she is convicted, “the Competent Authorities have to take appropriate steps to deport her to her mother country immediately after she completing sentence,” the HC said.