'Prisons For Punishing Convicts, Not to Detain Undertrials,' Delhi HC Says in Delhi Riots Case

'The remit of the court is to dispense justice in accordance with law, not to send messages to society,' it held.

New Delhi: While deciding on the bail application of a person accused of burning a shop during the Delhi riots, the Delhi high court said that prisons are for punishing convicts and not for detaining undertrials and granted the accused bail. 

The single bench of Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani noted:

“The remit of the court is to dispense justice in accordance with law, not to send messages to society.

It is this sentiment, whereby the State demands that undertrials be kept in prison inordinately without any purpose, that leads to overcrowding of jails; and leaves undertrials with the inevitable impression that they are being punished even before trial and therefore being treated unfairly by the system.”

The court also added that if at the end of the trial the prosecution is unable to prove the guilt of the accused, the years of her life that the accused spends in prison cannot be given back. And that if proven guilty, the accused will be made to undergo his sentence. 

The court granted bail to the accused, Firoz Khan, upon furnishing a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and sureties of the same amount from his relatives. He has also been directed to not leave Delhi without the permission of the court. 

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He had been taken into custody on April 3 in relation to an FIR filed in north east Delhi for offences of rioting and use of explosives to destroy a shop during the Delhi riots of February. 

Khan had sought bail from the court arguing that he was not named in the FIR and the police had been unable to recover any material from him to link him to the arson. 

The court said that it finds difficult to ascertain how the police identified Khan from an assembly of 250-300 people. 

“In this peculiar circumstance, this court was compelled to sift the evidence only prima-facie and limited to cursorily assessing how the police have identified the applicant from that large assembly of persons. This court is conscious that ”judicial custody” is the custody of the court; and the court will be loathe to depriving a person of his liberty, in the court’s name, on the mere ipse-dixit of the State, when it finds no substantial basis or reason for doing so,” it said. 

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A Delhi court dealing with cases related to the northeast Delhi riots, being handled by the Special Cell of the Delhi police, observed on May 27 that “the investigation seems to be targeted only towards one end”.

Most booked for their involvement in the riots are Muslims, students or women.

Communal violence had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24, leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured. BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who gave an open call to violence ahead of the riots, is yet unbooked.

As many as 567 activists, professionals from various fields, prominent citizens and rights organisations have jointly released a statement condemning the arrests by Delhi Police.