'Official Duty': Court Junks Jamia Plea for FIR on Cops' Use of 'Excessive Force' on Campus

Metropolitan Magistrate Rajat Goyal said while Delhi Police had used more than necessary force on December 15, 2019, their behaviour was not 'unconnected to official duty'.

New Delhi: A Delhi court dismissed an application filed by Jamia Millia Islamia University seeking action and an FIR against Delhi police officials for use of ‘excessive force’ while breaking into the campus without its permission and assaulting students and security guards in December 2019.

The university’s application had said that on December 15, 2019, civil society members had called for a peaceful protest near the university area against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The police officials caused destruction of university property, fired tear gas shells, injured university security guards and students, and conducted lathi charge while attempting to quell the protest that had become violent.

The university had sought registration of an FIR under Section 156(3) of Code of Criminal Procedure. The university said that police had made unnecessary use of force against students who were only exercising their democratic right to protest peacefully.

CCTV camera footage also showed police storming a library where students were studying. Students who had nothing to do with the anti-CAA protests, Mohommad Minhajuddin, lost an eye.

Also read: Crackdown in Jamia Library: More Footage Released, Shows Police Breaking CCTV Camera

Metropolitan Magistrate Rajat Goyal said that the police were “discharging official duties” and their acts against students fell within that purview.

“Though it could be argued that while so acting, the police/respondents had allegedly exceeded their jurisdiction and used more force than necessary in some instances, it cannot be said, by any stretch of imagination, that the said acts allegedly committed by the respondents were wholly unconnected to their official duty.”

However, he added that police could have handled the situation “in a better way”, showing restraint.

“Likewise, it could also be argued that the situation perhaps could have been handled by the respondents in a better way and that some restraint should have been shown by the police/respondents in order to differentiate between peaceful student protesters and anti -social elements who had attempted to hijack the entire movement,” the judge said.

Also read: ‘Terrorism’ Charge a Lesson for Jamia Students that Democratic Protest Carries Heavy Cost

The judge said, however, that this the lack of such restraint was related to official duties of the police.

“This court has no hesitation in holding that acts allegedly committed by the respondents fall within the purview of section 197 Cr.P.C., being acts committed in discharge of official duties,” the court said.

The university application said that police had also “hurt religious sentiments of locals of the area by entering into the university mosque,” and added that police complaints filed by university authorities had led to no action.

The judge added that the court needed requisite sanction from authorities concerned to prosecute police officers.

“Thus, as per law down by the Supreme Court, existence of requisite sanction is a must even before jurisdiction could be exercised. That being so, present application cannot be allowed for want of sanction,” the court said.

Police report

Times of India has reported that on January 22, 2020, a court had directed police to file an Action Taken Report on the university’s ‘excessive violence’ claim.

In the report, police said that a “protesting crowd set several vehicles on fire and then went inside the university campus and started pelting stones on the police and raised provocative slogans.”

In the report, police said it was imperative for them to enter the university and “contain the mob” which had used the university campus as a cover and had retreated into it.

Advocates Asghar Khan and Tariq Nasir, who represented the university, said that they will file a revision petition before a superior court against the order.

Last year, on the anniversary of the violence, the university’s Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar had told The Wire that following up on the cases related to the losses suffered by the university and the students will not “lead to anything.”

“There is no hope there. Instead we should focus on the future now,” Akhtar said, indicating a possibly interminable wait for justice by those worst affected by the violence.