India News

Bail Granted to ‘Bulli Bai’ & ‘Sulli Deals’ Accused in Months while Many Activists Remain in Jail Without Trial for Years

A Delhi court granted bail, on Monday, to the ‘Bulli Bai’ app case accused Niraj Bishnoi and ‘Sulli Deals’ case accused Omkareshwar Thakur on humanitarian grounds. While their bail has come within months of their arrest, social media users pointed out that several activists continue to remain in prison for years without a trial.


Bishnoi, a 20-year-old BTech student from Vellore Institute of Technology in Bhopal and a resident of Assam’s Jorhat area, was arrested as the main creator and conspirator behind the ‘Bulli Bai’ app on GitHub, back in January.

The app shared pictures and Twitter handles of Muslim women as part of a fake ‘online auction’ with the caption ‘Bulli of the day’.

On January 1, nearly 112 Muslim women found themselves listed on this auction, including actor Shabana Azmi, journalists Ismat Ara, Arfa Khanum SherwaniFatima Khan, and Quratulain Rehbar, author Saba Naqvi, poet Nabiya KhanRJ Sayema, Pakistani Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, and activist Khalida Parveen. Several other female Muslim activists, who frequently voice their opinions on social media, were also listed.

Six months prior to this, in July 2020, around 80 Muslim women were listed “for sale” in another fake online auction, known as ‘Sulli Deals‘, also hosted on GitHub. “Sulli” is a derogatory term used by Hindu men against Muslim women. While the Delhi Police registered an FIR, after the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) and the National Commission for Women (NCW) called for an investigation, no concrete action had been taken at the time.

However, based on evidence from the ‘Bulli Bai’ case, 26-year-old Thakur from Indore was arrested on January 9 for allegedly for writing code for the ‘Sulli Deals’ app.

Both Bishnoi and Thakur have now been released on bail. The court took into consideration that the accused were first-time offenders in its judgment and observed that continued incarceration would be detrimental to their overall well-being.

This verdict has led to several on social media pointing out that such consideration has not been provided to the many activists who have been in jail for years without a trial.

Professor and columnist Ashok Swain and author Deepanjana questioned why humanitarian grounds did not apply to late Father Stan Swamy. The 84-year-old Jharkhand-based tribal activist died as an undertrial prisoner in July last year after suffering a cardiac arrest at the Taloja central jail. He was arrested in October 2020 in the Bhima Koregaon case.

Swamy and 15 other activists and scholars were accused of having Maoist links and backing the event marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon that led to violence in 2018. They were arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and have been awaiting trial for the past three years.

While 60-year-old lawyer and activist Sudha Bharadwaj and 82-year-old Telugu poet and activist Varavara Rao are out on bail in that case, journalist Gautam Navlakha, Professor Rona Wilson, advocate Surendra Gadling, Professor Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, and others remain in jail.


Activist Shuja compared the accused in the apps cases with activist Umar Khalid, who has been in jail for over 500 days after being arrested under the draconian UAPA. He is accused of being a “key conspirator” in the Delhi riots in February 2020 that resulted in the deaths of over 50 people, mostly Muslims. The riots broke out amidst the months-long protests against the contentious law, Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Another accused in the same case, activist and scholar Sharjeel Imam, who was also known for his active participation in the anti-CAA protests, also continues to be in prison.

The national spokesperson for Congress, Dr Shama Mohamed, meanwhile, brought forth the example of Siddique Kappan, the Kerala-based journalist who has been languishing in jail since October 2020. He was also arrested under the UAPA, while on his way to cover the Hathras rape case and is still awaiting trial.