‘Media leaks need to be controlled to keep probe fair’: Delhi HC slams Police
The Delhi high court on Monday observed that media leaks need to be controlled to “ensure fairness to the accused, investigation agency and purity of trial” while slamming the Delhi Police for their half-baked vigilance enquiry to ascertain how the disclosure statement of Asif Iqbal Tanha, an accused in the north-east Delhi riots, was leaked to the media.
Justice Mukta Gupta, while hearing a plea by Tanha seeking action against the errant police officials, said the enquiry was even worse than what was done in a petty theft case.
Advocate Amit Mahajan, special public prosecutor in the north-east Delhi riots for the police, told the court that leak was “undesirable” and should not have happened. He said that whenever action is taken against any of the media houses, they start running a campaign against it.
To this, the court said, “Yes it is undesirable, but this needs to be controlled to ensure fairness to the accused, investigation agency and purity of trial”.
“You have to find the errant person. You cannot shrug the responsibility off your shoulders,” the court said.
Justice Gupta also asked the special commissioner of police, vigilance, to be in court on March 5, the next hearing date.
In his petition, Tanha said he was aggrieved by various publications reporting that he has confessed to orchestrating the Delhi riots and alleged that he was coerced to sign certain papers in the effective custody of police. Tanha said this information does not have any evidentiary value and alleged that the Delhi Police officials, with mala fide intent, leaked statements to the media to prejudice his case.
During the hearing on Monday, the court said that the allegations of police leaking the information were substantiated and it has to just find out who leaked it. The court cautioned that harsher orders will be passed if the police fail to do so.
“It is a case of theft of your documents. It’s a case of sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and anything that goes out of your hand illegally, you have to take action. Your document was not with anyone except for senior IAS officers. This is nothing but a half-baked vigilance enquiry without any application of mind,” Justice Gupta said.
When Mahajan told the court that the document had been sent only to the home ministry and the Delhi government and even they are aggrieved with the leak, the court said, “Mind you, these are senior IAS officers. Where did you do the enquiry, who did you enquire of? Where were the files sent? Who took them to MHA and Delhi government and who brought them back from there? These are not documents lying on the road…..and amazingly, if these were lying on the road, the journalist is confident that these are those very original copies”.
Tanha, a third-year student of BA in Persian language, was arrested in May last year in connection to the conspiracy in the north-east Delhi riots cases. He was arrested in connection with the violence in the Jamia area during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in December 2019.
The police had said Tanha was a member of the Students Islamic Organization and was part of the Jamia Coordination Committee which spearheaded protests against CAA.
On Monday, advocate Siddharth Aggarwal, appearing for Tanha, pointed to the police’s status report along with the vigilance enquiry report highlighting that the cause of leak or the person has not been substantiated.