Delhi riots a result of a ‘pre-planned and pre-meditated conspiracy to disturb law and order in the city,’ says HC

Court rejects bail plea of man arrested in connection with the death of a head constable

The Delhi High Court has rejected the bail petition of a man arrested in connection with the death of a head constable during the northeast Delhi riots last year, noting that the riots were a result of a “pre-planned and pre-meditated conspiracy to disturb law and order in the city”.

Justice Subramonium Prasad while dismissing the bail plea of one Mohd. Ibrahim, who was seen on numerous CCTV footages wearing a skull cap, black Nehru jacket, and salwar-kurta, with a sword in his hand on multiple locations around Chand Bagh area.

Justice Prasad said even though Mr. Ibrahim could not be seen at the ‘scene of crime’, he clearly was part of the mob for the sole reason that he had consciously travelled 1.6 km away from his neighbourhood with a sword which could only be used to incite violence and inflict damage.

“The riots which shook the National Capital of the country in February 2020 evidently did not take place in a spur of the moment, and the conduct of the protesters who are present in the video footage which has been placed on record by the prosecution visibly portrays that it was a calculated attempt to dislocate the functioning of the government as well as to disrupt the normal life of the people in the city,” the High Court remarked.

The systematic disconnection and destruction of the CCTV cameras also confirmed the existence of a pre-planned and pre-meditated conspiracy to disturb law and order in the city, Justice Prasad said adding, “This is also evident from the fact that innumerable rioters ruthlessly descended with sticks, ‘dandas’, bats etc. upon a hopelessly outnumbered cohort of police officials”.

The case relates to an FIR filed in connection with a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 that had been taking place for 1.5 months prior to the incident at Khajuri Square to Loni Circle at Wazirabad Road, Chand Bagh by the Muslim community.

On February 24, 2020, around 1.00 p.m. the protesters had mobilised near the Chand Bagh area and 25 Futa Road, and were moving towards the Main Wazirabad Road. When the police officers attempted to convince them to not move forward, the protesters carrying sticks, baseball sticks, iron rods and stones turned violent.

Some people in the crowd started pelting stones at the police officials, and beat them as well as other passers-by. The FIR stated that ACP Gokalpuri, head constable Ratan Lal and DCP Shahdara Amit Kumar were also beaten with sticks and stones, and as a result, they fell down and suffered grievous head injuries. Later, the head constable succumbed to a bullet injury.

Mr. Ibrahim’s counsel argued that as per the injury report, which is a part and parcel of the chargesheet, the death of the head constable was due to a gunshot injury and the same was possibly fired by the gun of a police official. The counsel stated that the death had not been caused by the sword which was carried by Mr. Ibrahim.

Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, representing Delhi police, said the absence of an accused from a video does not translate into absence of the accused from the scene of crime. Mr. Raju stated that identification of an accused in videography was a Herculean task.

After perusing the material on record, the High Court said Mr. Ibrahim had been clearly identified on multiple CCTV footages, carrying a sword and instigating the crowd.

The clinching evidence that tilted this court towards prolonging the incarceration of Mr. Ibrahim was the fact that the weapon which was being carried by him was capable of causing grievous injuries and/or death, and was prima facie a dangerous weapon, Justice Prasad said.

Bail for another arrested

In a separate decision on the same FIR, the High Court on Monday granted bail to one Mohd. Saleem Khan who was arrested on March 11, 2020. Mr. Khan was seen turning away a CCTV camera with the aid of a wiper.

Senior advocate Salman Khurshid, representing Mr. Khan, argued that his client had been falsely implicated in the FIR and that there was nothing on record which showed that Mr. Khan was a part of a mob or present at the scene of crime (SOC).

“A perusal of the material on record has revealed to the court that the video footage wherein the petitioner [Mr. Khan] is seen does not indicate whether the petitioner was a part of the unlawful assembly at the SOC,” Justice Prasad said.

Even though Mr. Khan could be seen dislocating a CCTV camera and inciting the crowd, the High Court said whether he was part of the conspiracy or not could be ascertained only after evidence was filed.

The usage of a wiper to turn away the CCTV camera implied that Mr. Khan may have been in the know-how of the impending riots, Justice Prasad said adding the extent to which the charge could be added against him could not be deconstructed by this court at this point and was a matter of trial.

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