Delhi Riots: Court Directs Police to Segregate FIRs of Different Nature

A Delhi court has directed police to register an FIR on a complaint by a garment trader, who claims to have witnessed burqa-clad women being killed and bodies being tossed into the Bhagirathi Vihar Nala.

New Delhi: Deprecating the approach of the Delhi Police to club a large number of complaints pertaining to loss of life and property during the northeast Delhi riots in one case, a Delhi court has issued directions for filing a separate first information report (FIR) on a complaint filed by Nisar Ahmed, whose readymade garments godown and house in Bhagirathi Vihar were attacked and looted by a mob on February 25.

The Wire had earlier reported how the Delhi Police had refused to register a proper case on his complaint. His counsel and advocate M.R. Shamshad had then submitted in the Delhi high court that “FIR No.78/2020 has been registered at police station Gokulpuri wherein complaint of the petitioner is clubbed and the petitioner has been made witness in three other FIRs”. Shamshad had also charged that police was trying to “protect” those named by Ahmed in the case.

Clubbing an FIR related to theft with murder and rioting

In a recent order on a plea filed by Ahmed, the metropolitan magistrate (MM) at Karkardooma courts, Rakesh Kumar Rampuri, issued directions for segregating FIRs of different nature to ensure fairness in the cases. He also ordered the station house officer of the concerned police station to register an FIR on the complaint of Ahmed within five days.

The application was filed by Ahmed before the MM under section 156(3) of the criminal procedure code seeking registration of  separate FIR from FIR No. 78/2020 registered at Gokalpuri police station.

The FIR stated that Ahmed, a trader of readymade garments, had witnessed that communal violence took place on February 24 in which some members of a “particular community” were brutally injured and killed. It further stated that the bodies of deceased were thrown into the Bhagirathi Vihar Nala and genocide with open loot and arson took place all night, and the complainant witnessed the same and then locked himself with his family inside his house.

The following day, on February 25, his counsel submitted, some accused persons reached Ahmed’s house at around 9:30 am with a crowd of about 200 people. The accused persons then broke the gate of Ahmed’s house and also raised the shutter of his godown of readymade garments.

Police photograph burnt properties owned by Muslims in a riot affected area, New Delhi, March 2, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Thereafter, it was alleged that all the stock worth Rs 10 lakh was looted from the premises and Ahmed’s three motorcycles an Enfield Bullet, a Bajaj Platina and a Hero Splendor were dragged out on the road and set ablaze. It was also submitted that a large heavy trunk containing the jewellery of Ahmed’s daughter-in-law and other personal articles related to her marriage were also looted. With the help of a neighbour, Ahmed and his family were safely escorted out of the area.

Ahmed’s counsel argued that instead of filing a separate FIR, his complaint was clubbed with FIR No. 78/2020 that was registered under section 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (Rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 380 (theft in dwelling house), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) and other sections of IPC at Gokalpuri police station on the complaint of Aas Mohammad, who was also a victim of rioting and theft.

However, Shamshad argued that while this FIR is related to theft in the dwelling house and mischief against unknown persons, it could not be clubbed with Ahmed’s complaint, which related to murders, looting, assault, arson, intimidation and rioting witnessed by him.

Also read: Muslims in Northeast Delhi Sell Homes Below Market Rate to Escape ‘Continuing Harassment’

‘BJP councillor had threatened Ahmed for naming an accused’

Ahmed received threatening calls inquiring about the details of his complaint and was also coerced into settling the complaint. The Wire had earlier reported how Ahmed had accused a local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) councillor, Kanhaiya Lal, of intervening on behalf on the culprits, by making those he had accused in his complaint call and threaten him.

Shamshad urged the police for lodging a separate FIR on the basis of Ahmed’s complaint and argued that “FIR No. 78/2020 is not related to the incident of same place, time or accused” and that the present complaint also pertained to a “heinous crime”.

Investigating officer insisted claim of women being murdered was ‘false, baseless’

The investigation officer (IO), sub-inspector Ashish Garg, in his reply on August 28 stated that FIR No. 78/20 was registered on March 2 on the complaint of Aas Mohammad and two days later when a hand written complaint was received from Ahmed it was clubbed with the FIR “as the date and place of incident was same”.

The judge recorded that the “IO further stated in his reply that allegation of the complainant regarding killing of any burqa wearing women and their dead bodies thrown into Bhagirathi Vihar Nala are false and baseless.” Also, Garg said that “chargesheet against arrested accused persons has been prepared under section 147/148/149/427/436/454/380/188/34 of IPC and supplementary chargesheet with regard to the other accused persons will be filed, if any incriminating evidence crops up during further investigation of the case bearing FIR No. 78/2020 of police station Gokalpuri.”

A violent mob during the riots in North East Delhi on February 24, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

‘How to investigate Ahmed’s complaint which is different from the chargesheet in earlier FIR’

Upon hearing both sides, the MM wrote, “It is not clear that as to how police will investigate all the allegations of Ahmed in FIR No. 78/20, PS Gokalpuri wherein the chargesheet has already been prepared.”

The judge also recorded that “the present complainant had alleged that the incident of arson and looting took place at his house and he had seen killing of some members of a particular community by the mob and throwing of the dead body of deceased in some nearby Nala on 24.02.2020 and 25.02.2020.”

Without going into the veracity of the claims, MM Rampuri noted that “the judicial consideration of the court, at this stage, is confined to consider the legal justification of complainant to insist for separate FIR by the police on the basis of information given in the present complaint disclosing commission of various cognizable offences, which are different from the allegation of complainant of another case” in terms of place, time and effect of the alleged crime.

MM Rampuri observed that “the police has tried to justify its act of alleged clubbing of the present complaint of the applicant vide some DD entry 26A dated 22.03.2020 with FIR No. 78/20, PS Gokalpuri and it has also claimed that it may file supplementary chargesheet on the basis of incriminating evidence, which may crop up in the course of further investigation of said case bearing FIR No. 78/2020.”

Stating that “the police has also claimed that the allegation of the complainant regarding killing of some burqa wearing women was false and baseless”, the judge further wrote in his order that “the court fail(ed) to appreciate as to how the police could even claim that the allegation of the applicant as to he had seen from his house that some burqa wearing women or looking alike Muslim women were killed with swords and their dead body were thrown into Bhagirathi Nala of given area are false and without any evidence before conducting any through and proper investigation ….”

When the chargesheet has already been prepared in the concerned FIR, how the investigating agency/police can investigate the allegations of the present complainant which are substantially different from the aforesaid chargesheet, the judge questioned.

He held that it is, therefore, clear that even further investigation in FIR No. 78/2020 would not cover the required proper investigation in the allegations levelled by Ahmed.

Citing Supreme Court constitution bench ruling in Anju Chaudhary Vs. State of UP (2013), MM Rampuri further wrote in his order that the apex court had observed that “even if the incidents were committed in close proximity of time, there could be separate FIRs and institution of even one stating that a number of thefts had been committed, would not debar the registration of another FIR. Similarly, riots may break out because of the same event but in different areas and between different people. The registration of a primary FIR which triggered the riots would not debar registration of subsequent FIRs in different areas.”

Also read: ‘Do Mullo Ko Maara Bhai NE’ vs ‘Maintain Peace’: A Tale of Delhi Riots and Two WhatsApp Groups

MM directs registration of FIR within five days

In view of these discussion of facts, logic and authorities, MM Rampuri wrote in his order that “this court is of considered view that police should register FIR under appropriate provisions of law on the basis of information given by the complainant as same reveals commission of some serious cognizable offences which can be investigated properly by the investigating agency of the State only.”

Accordingly, he directed the SHO of the concerned police station to “lodge FIR within five days from receiving copy of this order and get the matter investigated properly as per law and expeditiously in view of nature of allegation in question.”

‘Clubbing of FIRs at whims of police cannot be permitted’

Reacting to the order, Shamshad said he had argued before various fora that mass clubbing of FIRs at the whims of police cannot be permitted. “Finally (we have) got an order to this effect,” he told The Wire.

The senior advocate, who has been seeking justice for the riot victims, said: “Wherever police has thought not to register FIR, they have clubbed them with registered FIRs without following any principle in law. If police feels that the incidents during riots were all relatable to single incident, then one police station should register only one FIR and club all the complaints with single FIR, but they can’t be selective in registering as many FIRs as they want and at the same time club many complaints with existing FIRs. This is fallacious.”