Delhi Riots: 'Police Covering Flaw', Court Drops Arson Charges Against 10

The ASJ said arson charges cannot be invoked merely on the basis of statements of police witnesses who were posted as beat officers in the area on the date of the incident.

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New Delhi: A Delhi court on Wednesday, September 22, dropped charges of arson against 10 people that the Delhi Police had accused of looting shops during the February 2020 riots, saying the police was trying to cover up a flaw and clubbing incidents of two different dates.

The case was registered on the basis of three complaints – one Birjpal had stated that his rented shop was looted by a riotous mob at Brijpuri road on February 25, while Diwan Singh claimed that two of his shops were looted on February 24.

Revoking arson charges, Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Yadav noted the complainants did not state a single word regarding the riotous mob committing “mischief by fire or explosive substance” in their initial statements.

Diwan Singh, in his supplementary statement, stated however that the riotous mob put his shop on fire, to which the court said that the investigating agency cannot cover up the flaw by recording the supplementary statements if the offence of arson was not there in initial complaints made to the police.

Also read: ‘Casual, Callous, Farcical’: Delhi Court Fines, Raps Police Over Handling of Riots Case

The judge further said that arson charges cannot be invoked merely on the basis of statements of police witnesses who were posted as beat officers in the area on the date of the incident.

ASJ Yadav said that he is unable to comprehend how an incident that took place on February 24 can be clubbed with the incident which occurred on February 25 unless and until there is clear evidence that the same rioters were operating on both dates.

“In view of the aforesaid discussion, I am of the considered view that ingredients of Section 436 IPC [mischief by fire or explosive substance] are not at all made out from the material produced on record by the investigating agency,” the judge said.

The ten accused are Mohd Shahnawaz, Mohd Shoaib, Shahrukh, Rashid, Azad, Ashraf Ali, Parvez, Mohd Faizal, Rashid, Mohd Tahir.

The other sections invoked in the chargesheet such as Sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with a deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 188 (disobedience to order by public servant), 354 (assault), 392 (robbery), 427 (mischief), 452 (house trespass), 153-A (promoting disharmony on grounds of religion), 506 (criminal intimidation) are exclusively triable by a Magistrate, ASJ Yadav said.

He ordered for the case to be transferred to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate.

This is not the first time that the Delhi Police has been hauled up by the courts for its investigation into the riots.

The Delhi high court in July had stayed the imposition of Rs 25,000 costs on the police in a case where a lower court had noted that investigation in case FIR No.64/2020 “has been done in a most casual, callous and farcical manner.” While the high court had stayed the fine, it had refused to interfere with the trial court’s strictures against its investigation.

The same ASJ Yadav had earlier observed that the Delhi Police’s senior officers have displayed a “complete lack of supervision” in investigation.

A Delhi court had also pointed to the Delhi Police’s laxity in investigating the burning of the Madina Mosque mosque during the riots. Earlier, ASJ Yadav had expressed dissatisfaction with Delhi Police for not having maintained files in connection with the probe into the desecration of the Masjid.