Allahabad: Yogi Adityanath’s legal fortunes may have turned for the worse. A potentially incriminating CD, which allegedly contains a hate speech by him and whose existence successive Uttar Pradesh governments have refused to acknowledge for a decade, has been found. It was discovered when two judges of the Allahabad High Court — no less — dramatically opened sealed court records in their courtroom two months ago.
This CD allegedly contains a video of Adityanath making a hate speech against Muslims in Gorakhpur in January 2007. Widespread violence against Muslims in and around Gorakhpur had followed that controversial speech. Adityanath was then a BJP MP from the Lok Sabha constituency of Gorakhpur. He became UP chief minister last March.
In 2007, a Gorakhpur-based journalist, Parvez Parwaz, had filed a criminal complaint with the police against Adityanath for his speech and violence. But for ten years, successive governments of chief ministers Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav failed to prosecute Adityanath. Even the Supreme Court of India cleared the way for his prosecution in 2012 but the case never went to trial.
Dissatisfied with the UP police from day one, Parwaz had in 2008 petitioned the high court for the investigation of his complaint to be transferred from the UP police to an independent central agency. That case, too, has dragged since.
Last May, just weeks after Adityanath became chief minister, his government told the Allahabad high court that it had decided to not prosecute him for the 2007 speech and violence. The decision, the government said, was based on the findings of an official forensic examination that had ruled that a DVD of Adityanath’s said speech was “tampered with”.
The government claimed that Parwaz had given this DVD to the police as evidence. Parwaz, however, denied he ever gave a DVD (or even a CD) to the police. He told the high court he had indeed submitted a CD (and not a DVD) containing Adityanath’s hate speech to the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) in Gorakhpur back in April 2008.
In November 2017, Parwaz’s lawyer, Farman Naqvi, challenged the government to produce records to prove that his client had given a DVD to the police. As per procedure, such a document would have generated a “recovery memo” written by the investigating officer, duly signed by witnesses present when Parwaz would have given the DVD to the police. But government lawyers appearing in the case, including the advocate general, the senior-most government lawyer in the state, failed to provide such documentation.
The only mention of a “CD” being given by Parwaz to the police is on the last page of the investigating officer’s “case diary”, entered on March 14, 2013. Even if this was true, and Parwaz had indeed given a CD/DVD to the police on that day, the results of its forensic examination are useless legal tender.
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In a two-page “examination” report dated October 13, 2014, the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, which conducted the forensic test, wrote that the sealed parcel sent for forensic examination contained, besides the DVD, “one CITY FOCUS newspaper (single page) of dated 5 June 2014”. This means that even if Parwaz, despite his denial, had submitted a CD/DVD to the police in March 2013, it had not been sealed right away, else a newspaper clipping from June 2014 could not have been found in the packet.
It was at Naqvi’s insistence that high court judges Krishna Murari and Akhilesh Chandra Sharma then summoned the sealed records from the CJM’s court in Gorakhpur. These records were delivered to the judges in early December, who then proceeded to unseal them in open court, in full view of the state government’s as well as Parwaz’s lawyers. As Parwaz had claimed all along, a CD was indeed found in those records with the appropriate noting from the CJM office proving that Parwaz had submitted it.
It is unclear why the CJM’s court never handed the CD to the investigating police officer nor sent it for forensic examination, as should have been done by law. Unfortunately, the high court judges found the CD had cracked. The CJM’s record of receiving the CD, however, does not mention that it was cracked when Parwaz had submitted it.
Can the contents of a cracked CD still be accessed?
Interestingly, the DVD that the government claimed Parwaz had submitted, too, was “cracked” when it was received by the forensic department. Yet, the latter could do a successful test of its contents to rule the videos therein “edited and tampered with”.
The hearings on Parwaz’s petition at the high court ended on December 18. The judges announced they had “reserved” the judgement, which meant a ruling won’t be given straightaway but at a later date. According to the high court’s daily listing, the case comes up Thursday, February 22, suggesting that the judgment may be issued now.
Ajit Sahi is an independent journalist.