Delhi riots: Court takes cognisance of sedition charges against 18
- Under section 196 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the investigating agency has to take prior sanction from the state government to prosecute any individual for sedition.
A Delhi court on Tuesday took cognisance of the offences of sedition, promoting enmity between religious groups and criminal conspiracy against 18 persons accused of allegedly orchestrating the north-east Delhi riots, saying that the requisite sanction under criminal procedure code has been received from the authorities.
Under section 196 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the investigating agency has to take prior sanction from the state government to prosecute any individual for sedition.
Earlier, the court took cognizance of offences registered under stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), rioting, murder, unlawful assembly, disappearance of evidences, detailed in two separate charge sheets. But the court did not take cognizance of sedition charges for lack of proper sanction.
At least 53 persons were killed and 581 injured in the riots last year, which was allegedly triggered by a clash between supporters of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and those opposing it. It later snowballed into a communal riot that raged between February 23 and 27.
The special cell is probing the role of several prominent anti-CAA protesters in allegedly orchestrating the riots. The police have claimed that the riots were not spontaneous but planned by several persons, including student leaders.The arrested persons have denied the allegations and accused the police of launching a witch hunt against prominent anti-government faces.
The main charge sheet was filed in September against Pinjra Tod members and JNU students Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha and student activist Gulfisha Fatima, former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan, Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider and Shifa-Ur-Rehman, suspended AAP Councillor Tahir Hussain, activist Khalid Saifi, Shadab Ahmed, Tasleem Ahmed, Salim Malik, Mohd Salim Khan and Athar Khan.
In the first supplementary charge sheet, the police invoked same charges against Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, and Faizan Khan.
During the hearing, Umar Khalid told the court that no court had convicted him still one of the newspapers had carried photos of him along with other accused declaring them convicts for orchestrating the riots. He also said that media leaks are happening again and again and is putting the accused in a vulnerable position in the jail
“No court has convicted me. Excerpts from the charge sheets have been published and it is happening again and again. It paints us at guilty and not accused and makes s us vulnerable in the jail,” Khalid said.
Additional sessions judge Amitabh Rawat, while taking cognizance of the second supplementary charge sheet in the case, also cautioned the media to be careful and objective in its approach. “It is one thing to report generally about the charge-sheet but quite another to reproduce it as it is and thus, obviously, the question of leakage would arise. This is grossly unfair and unjustified and the court expects that it would not occur in future,” the court said.
The court also rejected a plea by advocate Adit Pujari, Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, who demanded that a copy of the charge sheet should be supplied to him even before the cognizance is taken as it has already been leaked to the media.
It also said that even though guidelines for reporting cannot be laid, but at least a disclaimer should be given whether it is the version of the police or the accused instead of portraying it as an order of the court.