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Death at tractor rally: HC asks police for status report

Police told the court that an FIR had been registered at IP Estate police station. As per police, Navreet died after his tractor overturned on ramming barricades put up by them to contain the protesters

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: February 12, 2021 9:19:55 am
farmer death, tractor rally, republic day violence, farmers protest, Delhi HC, SIT probe, Delhi news, Indian express newsNavreet Singh

THE DELHI High Court Thursday asked the Delhi Police to file a status report regarding the case of a 25-year-old man who died during the January 26 tractor rally, while issuing a notice to authorities in Uttar Pradesh where his post-mortem was conducted.

Listing the case for hearing next on February 26, Justice Yogesh Khanna ordered police to provide an advance copy of the status report to the counsel representing Hardeep Singh (69), grandfather of the youth who died, Navreet Singh. Hardeep had approached the court seeking a time-bound and court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team into the death.

Police told the court that an FIR had been registered at IP Estate police station. As per police, Navreet died after his tractor overturned on ramming barricades put up by them to contain the protesters. However, the family has claimed Navreet was shot, leading to the tractor he was driving overturning.

Farmers protests, Republic Day violence, R-day tractor parade violence, Farm laws, Gurgaon, Palwal, Faridabad curfew, Indian express Farmers and police clash at ITO in Delhi on January 26. (Express photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

In its petition, the family has cited media reports quoting eyewitness accounts as well as opinion of medical experts, claiming sufficient reason not to accept the “self-serving conclusion of the Delhi Police”. They had the right to know the truth and the right to justice, for closure, the family argued before the court Thursday.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, representing Hardeep, said Navreet had gone from his village in Bilaspur, Rampur, UP, to participate in the tractor rally, and that eyewitnesses had said he was shot by the police — “following which” and “because of which” his tractor hit the barricade and overturned. Grover cited media reports to support her arguments and also alleged police abandoned the scene and conducted no proceedings. Grover called the Delhi Police’s stand on Navreet’s death as “hastily, pre-judged assertion without any substantiation or verification”.

Grover submitted that there are several CCTVs near the site of the incident and alleged that Delhi Police had concealed footage from a camera of the Andhra Education Society in the area. She also accused police of releasing a video recording selectively as well as a “finding and conclusion” to the media on January 26 evening, before any post-mortem or inquest proceedings had taken place, claiming Navreet’s death to be a road accident.

“We have eyewitness accounts, we have medical opinion which is saying that injuries recorded in the post-mortem report are consistent with a firearm bullet injury and actually cannot happen if you hit a barricade and fall over,” argued Grover, while relying on various media reports.

Arguing that with every passing day, the actions of the Delhi Police were becoming “even more suspect”, Grover pointed out that police had registered FIRs against MP Shashi Tharoor and many senior journalists for raising questions regarding Navreet’s death. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had stayed the arrest of Congress leader Tharoor and six others facing criminal cases — including under the charge of sedition — over their tweets regarding Navreet’s death.

Grover said the FIRs were aimed at silencing an inquiry into the matter. “FIRs are lodged against senior journalists who have simply asked questions or reported the story on the basis of eyewitness accounts,” she submitted, adding Delhi Police, at every step, has conducted itself in a manner which cannot inspire “a shred of confidence”.

Delhi’s Standing Counsel (Criminal) Rahul Mehra said footage of CCTVs installed at the Andhra Education Society, among others, had been seized by police for examination and it would have no difficulty sharing the information, including the documents and electronic evidence in its possession, regarding the matter. He sought time to seek instructions regarding the issues raised before the court and file a status report.

He submitted that an FIR, “generic in nature”, was lodged in the death.

The family told the court that it was not even given a video recording of the post-mortem report, after autopsy at District Hospital Rampur in UP on January 27. Even X-ray reports were not provided, Hardeep said in the petition.

Following this, the court issued a notice to SHO, Bilaspur, and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the Rampur District Hospital.

Rampur SP Shogun Gautam had said earlier the post-mortem showed Navreet had severe head injuries, and “completely ruled out bullet injuries”. Rampur District Magistrate Aunjaneya Kumar Singh had said: “The family was present during the post-mortem. If he had a bullet injury, it would have come out in the report.” He had said that the post-mortem was videographed and conducted by a panel of two doctors and monitored by the CMO.

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