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Thursday, July 09, 2020

Delhi riots: Bail to school owner, court says no evidence of PFI link

Faisal Farooq, owner of Rajdhani Public School, was among eight people arrested in a case of rioting outside the school in the Shiv Vihar area on February 24.

Written by Anand Mohan J | New Delhi | Published: June 22, 2020 5:11:57 am
cbse, cbse.nic.in, cbse postpone exam, delhi violence, education news, PTM parent teacher meet, cbse news, board exams Several schools were damaged in the riots. (Photo: Amit Mehra)

Granting bail to the owner of a school who was arrested in connection with the Northeast Delhi riots in February, a Delhi court has observed that the police “chargesheet is bereft of material showing the links of applicant with PFI, Pinjra Tod group and Muslim clerics”.

The court also said “it is prima facie not established that the applicant was present at the spot at the time of incident”.

Faisal Farooq, owner of Rajdhani Public School, was among eight people arrested in a case of rioting outside the school in the Shiv Vihar area on February 24. He has been in jail rebuts Delhi Police on links with PFI, presence at spot
since March 8. Farooq also owns Victoria Public School, and both his schools were damaged in the riots.

In a “brief note” shared by the Delhi Police on June 3 while filing the chargesheet, it was claimed that investigation into the rioting incident had revealed that Farooq had “links with prominent members of Popular Front of India, Pinjra Tod, Jamia Coordination Committee, Hazrat Nizamuddin Markaz and some other fundamental Muslim clerics, including Deoband”.

Police also claimed that it was on Farooq’s instructions that DRP Convent School, the school “adjacent and rival” to Rajdhani, two parking lots, and the Anil Sweets building were “systematically destroyed” by the mob.

Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Yadav, who granted bail to Faisal, noted there are contradictions in witness statements, and the investigating officer (IO) had tried to file a supplementary statement of a prosecution witness “to cover up the deficiency”.

According to the order, the first statement of the witness was “recorded probably” on March 8, in which he claimed to have seen the applicant in front of the gate of Rajdhani Public School around 1.30 pm. “He further claimed to have heard him asking the guard of the school to permit Muslim persons inside the school”. The order states that in his statement recorded by the Metropolitan Magistrate on March 11, “he did not say a word about having seen the applicant at the scene of occurrence or having heard stating anything to the guard of the school”.

The IO then tried to file a supplementary statement “on the same day wherein this witness claimed that he got frightened before the Ld. MM because of which he could not state anything about the applicant”, the order states.

On police allegations that a (gulel) sling was found on the roof of the school, the court, after going through records, noted that it was found 16 days after the incident. The court said that if the presence of the accused could not be established, then the gulel could not be attributed to him.

The police note also stated, “Farooq had visited Deoband just one day before the riots started, that is, on February 23.”

“Evidence of conspiracy is further brought out by the fact that on the day of the riots, that is, on February 24, many children from Muslim families left the school early, along with their parents, during the half-time recess itself,” police had claimed.

Farooq’s lawyers, R K Kochar, Gaurav Kochar and Gaurav Vashist argued before the court that the IPC sections against Farooq cannot be invoked since there was no material on record to substantiate his presence at the spot.

The court said that in none of the CCTV footage is the accused present, and “if it is prima facie noticeable that the accused was not present at the scene of occurrence then naturally, the evidence against him in respect of sections 397/395/436/455 IPC will fall short”.

On police allegations that the accused is “stated to have mobile conversations with one lady… who is stated to be having links with Saiful Islam Law Faculty”, the court observed that she was “in fact a reporter” with a newspaper.

Police had also said that Farooq had conversations with four other people, but the court noted that one of them was an advocate, another a local MLA whose children study in the same school, and the third person was the applicant’s cousin.

“Admittedly, the IO has not collected the call detail record of the above named persons. Except bald allegation, there is no material to substantiate that the applicant had conversed with the aforesaid persons in relation to communal riots. When the IO was confronted in this regard, then he stated that further investigation on the aspect of terror funding is underway… in the chargesheet there is hardly any material to substantiate the allegation of terror funding…,” the order read.

The court, while granting bail, also noted, “It is made clear that nothing in this order shall be construed an expression on the merits of evidence to be adduced in the matter.”

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