In 1st judgment in Delhi riots cases, court slams police for shoddy probe
A city court on Tuesday acquitted a man accused of rioting, unlawful assembly, and dacoity — the first judgment to be delivered in multiple cases related to the northeast Delhi riots cases — and pulled up the Delhi Police for an investigation “that is way short” of what was needed.
Additional sessions judge Amitabh Rawat said that prosecution miserably failed to prove its case, forget beyond reasonable doubt, as the testimonies of the witnesses did not match. The court set the accused, Suresh alias Bhatura, free and ruled that he could not be connected to the offence in any manner.
Suresh, who thanked the judge with folded hands in the video conferencing hearing, was appearing from Mandoli jail. He was lodged there since his arrest in April 2020.
“All the major witnesses are at variance with each other on material terms, impacting the prosecution’s version. It is indeed proved from the testimony of the witnesses that the offence as stated out in the charge sheet happened, i.e., formation of unlawful assembly of 15-20 people, rioting, ransacking the shop of the complainant, i.e., shop no. 27/5, Main Babarpur Road, Delhi. There is no testimony worth its salt which connect the accused to the present offence in question,” the judge said.
“As can be made out on the cumulative reading of the entire testimonies of all the witnesses, the identification of the accused is not established at all. The investigation carried out is way short of the desired one,” he added.
Suresh was arrested on April 7, 2020 on a complaint by Asif, identified by his first name only, who ran a rented shop in the Babarpur area. On February 25, 2020 when he heard commotion, he saw 15-20 people armed with sticks and iron rods. He alleged that the mob was inciting others to damage and loot the shop because he was Muslim. The complaint said that he tried to reason with the mob, but to no avail, and was threatened with dire consequences if he intervened. Later, the owner of the shop, Bhagat Singh, went to the police and brought head constable Sunil Kumar to the spot, after which the rioters ran away.
Communal riots had broke out in the north east part of the national capital amid nationwide protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Delhi Police have registered around 750 FIRs in connection with the riots that killed 53 persons and left 400 others wounded over four days.
The police’s investigation has been under criticism from various fronts, including social activists, student groups, and politicians.
In its judgment on Tuesday, the court has said that the complainant Asif was not an eyewitness to any incident of the rioting or other connected offences that took place on Feb 25, 2020. It also said that Bhagat Singh, the owner of the shop, and the witness whom the prosecution relied the most, denied identifying the accused on two occasions, and also in the court.
The judge noted that Singh was told by head constable Sunil and the investigating officer of the case, Nishant Chaudhary, that Suresh was involved in the rioting, rather than the other way round.
The court said that the seized articles from the shop were not sealed by the IO, and neither was there any recording of the incident. It also held that the identification of the accused by the head constable was “untenable”.
“If PW6 (HC Sunil) identified the accused at the time of rioting itself, then why he did not record any entry to the said fact on the said date or even till the FIR was filed on February 28, 2020? He also never gave anything in writing to the concerned police station stating that he had identified the accused. He has admitted that till March 1, 2020, he never gave any statement regarding the involvement of the accused in the present offence of rioting and other offences,” the judge noted in his 21-page judgment.