The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has recommended departmental action by the home ministry against nine Delhi Police special cell personnel, including an ACP, for allegedly framing former Kashmiri militant Liyaqat Shah in a terror case.
This comes three days after the federal anti-terror agency filed a chargesheet absolving Shah of the charge of coming to India from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to carry out terror strikes in the Capital, as claimed by the police. Instead, it charged the highly decorated officers with arresting Shah without sufficient cause, negligence in handling evidence and recording his statement, and making a false arrest memo and inaccuracies in case dairies.
The police had hailed the arrest in 2013 as a big catch even as Shah’s family and the Jammu and Kashmir government claimed he had returned to surrender under the state’s rehabilitation policy for former militants.
“Besides ACP Manishi Chandra, the NIA has forwarded the names of three inspectors and five head constables and constables to the home ministry, under which the Delhi Police function, for appropriate action,” said a government official, requesting anonymity. Departmental action could range from censure to dismissal.
However, the NIA let off the team’s supervisory officer, deputy commissioner of police Sanjiv Kumar Yadav — despite its report to the ministry noting that he was “in touch on phone” with a person who had gone to Nepal to bring Shah back.
According to the NIA report, Shah was on his way home to surrender to authorities in J-K when he was arrested by the special cell on the India-Nepal border on March 20, 2013 and charged with plotting to hit installations in Delhi.
The anti-terror squad also claimed to have recovered arms and ammunition from a guest house in the Jama Masjid area on the basis of his statement. But during the course of its probe, the NIA found that a special cell informer, Sabir Khan Pathan alias Munna— now absconding — had planted the arms.
The investigators lifted DNA from a pair of pants in the guest house and matched it with that of Pathan’s father. The NIA has also alleged that crucial evidence, including CCTV footage from the Jama Masjid area, was lost due to ‘negligence’.
The special cell had seized hard disks of the security cameras before the case went to the NIA. Forensic experts could not extract any footage as the disks were found to be damaged.
According to the NIA, it then sent the disks to the Electronic Corporation of India (ECIL), which had supplied the cameras. The ECIL told the NIA the proper way to extract footage was to export it to an external source, which the Delhi Police had done in two other cases.
An ECIL engineer had also told the police he could provide them with the footage and even make it tamper-proof, the NIA said, but the cops asked him to simply hand over the hard disks.
When asked by the NIA, the special cell personnel said they had followed standard operating procedure.