New Delhi: The family of 25-year-old Navreet Singh, who died during the Republic Day tractor parade, has moved the Delhi high court on Wednesday seeking a court-monitored Special Investigating Team (SIT) probe into his death.
The petitioner in the case is Navreet Singh’s grandfather, Hardeep Singh Dibdiba, who has repeatedly been saying that Navreet’s death was caused by a bullet, challenging the Delhi police’s claim that he died when his tractor overturned near the ITO crossing in Delhi. The police have also released CCTV footage of the accident to support their claim, while the autopsy report from a hospital in Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur district also did not explicitly mention “bullet wounds.”
The petition mentions The Wire’s report on Navreet Singh, published on January 30, which contains a video shared by the family. It says, “[O]n 29.01.2021, a video made using a cellphone, wherein the dead body of the Petitioner’s grandson can be closely viewed provided crucial insight into the nature of the injury wounds on the Petitioner’s 20 grandson’s face and head. The video is published by The Wire.”
The plea also mentions the allegations made by Singh’s grandfather in a report published by The Wire. It reads, “We were told by the doctor that they have clearly seen the bullet injury, and then we cremated his body peacefully. But we were cheated, as the [post mortem] report that came out did not say that. The doctor even told me that even though he had seen the bullet injury, he can do nothing as his hands are tied.”
Dibdiba made these allegations while speaking to The Wire three days after Navreet’s death.
On Thursday, Dibdiba told The Wire, “We want a fair investigation into his death. We want the truth to come out. Justice must prevail.” The petition is listed for hearing on Thursday.
On January 26, farmers who claimed to have witnessed Singh’s death stated that he had been shot at, after which he lost control of his tractor and died. The police then released CCTV video footage, which showed that his tractor overturned due to an accident.
The petition also mentions initial media reports in which eyewitnesses said that Singh was driving his tractor past the Andhra Education Society in New Delhi and was allegedly shot, due to which he lost control of his tractor and collided with police barricades and overturned.
Reports which published these claims later clarified to provide the Delhi police’s account that Singh died in an accident. Cases have been registered against six journalists and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor in five states for ‘misleading’ tweets on Singh’s death.
A case has also been registered against The Wire, its founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan and this reporter for publishing the family’s allegations.
Dibdiba’s plea has been filed through advocates Vrinda Grover, Soutik Banerjee, Mannat Tipnis and Devika Tulsiani. It seeks a court-appointed and court-monitored SIT – comprising police officers with a demonstrably “impeccable record of professional integrity, honesty and efficiency” – to carry out a time-bound investigation into the death. The petition also seeks the court’s direction that the SIT should file periodic status reports to ensure the investigation is completed quickly.
Raises important questions
The petition also says that the victim was not provided first aid treatment, despite the huge number of police personnel present at the scene of the accident. It says:
“The Petitioner’s grandson was lying in a critically injured condition under the overturned tractor, however, despite the presence of a large number of police men including senior police officials in the vicinity, no attempts were made by Delhi Police to provide immediate critical medical intervention to save the life of the Petitioner’s grandson.”
It also alleged that no steps, as mandated under the Code of Criminal Procedure, were taken by the police after the unnatural death of Singh to conduct inquest proceedings. The petition says that in the face of “such apathy and hostility” by the Delhi Police, Singh’s body was recovered by other farmers and later handed over to the family.
Dibdiba says that footage from the many CCTV cameras installed in the vicinity has not been provided to the family. When The Wire contacted the Andhra Education Society’s administration, it was informed that the Digital Video Recorder which records and stores the CCTV footage was taken away by the police.
The plea also said that X-ray reports conducted at the time of the autopsy were not shared with the family. A senior doctor at AIIMS told The Wire that X-ray reports in the case can “clear the air”.
The plea also quotes The Wire‘s report. It read, “The Wire’s report also quoted a senior doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, who noted that laceration wounds could be caused by bullet injuries. The senior doctor added, ‘It seems that the post mortem report has carefully been made to remove any doubts about a bullet injury.'”
The petitioner also says that the medical/forensic experts who have reviewed the description of injuries in the post mortem report have independently made statements, reported by various media houses, opining that the injuries are consistent with firearm/gunshot wounds and that the said injuries could not have resulted from the tractor overturning.
“The haste with which the Delhi Police has made public statements declaring the incident to be an accident, as well as registered FIRs against senior journalists who have pursued the possibility of Navreet Singh’s death having resulted from a firearm injury, inspires no confidence in the petitioner that the Delhi Police would conduct a fair and honest investigation into the death / murder of his grandson.”
The respondents in the case are the Delhi government; station house officers of the IP Estate police station in Delhi and Bilaspur police station in Rampur; the Uttar Pradesh government; and the chief medical officer (CMO) of the Rampur District Hospital, where Singh’s autopsy was conducted.