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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Probe details in riots case leaked: HC calls issue serious, Delhi Police says further examination will ‘stir hornet’s nest’

The Delhi Police, in its reply filed last week, told the court that it has failed to identify the officers/office from where “details of investigation” were “shared with the media” as journalists have refused to divulge their source.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: August 12, 2021 7:15:46 am
Delhi riots case, Delhi High court, Delhi Hc on Delhi riots, Delhi police, Delhi news, Delhi latest news, Delhi news update53 people had lost their lives in the Northeast Delhi riots of 2020. (File)

The Delhi High Court Wednesday said an investigation report is valuable property and the leak of probe details is a “very serious issue” in the justice delivery system. The court said it must be ensured that selective leakage does not happen in the future.

It made the observations while hearing a petition filed by Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha, one of the accused in the UAPA case alleging a larger conspiracy behind the 2020 Northeast Delhi riots, against leaking of his alleged “confession statement” by police to the media.

The supplementary chargesheet filed before the trial court on February 25 was also leaked to media even before the court took cognizance, the court was told previously.

The Delhi Police, in its reply filed last week, told the court that it has failed to identify the officers/office from where “details of investigation” were “shared with the media” as journalists have refused to divulge their source.

Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi Wednesday told the court that a comprehensive inquiry has taken place but a “deeper examination” will “stir a hornet’s nest” which, in the facts of the case presently, is not required.

However, Justice Mukta Gupta disagreed with the submission: “To say the facts of this case don’t require… I’d disagree for the reason that it not only affects a valuable right of petitioner. It is a case where there is an order of this court that press briefing will not be done, so to circumvent that what you do is… you don’t do a press briefing but somehow… I am not imputing to any particular officer… but somehow in the form of leakage everything comes out, that is not permissible.”

The court said police has examined many people but has concluded that it was difficult to pinpoint the source of the leak as many copies of the chargesheet were made. When Lekhi submitted that police were in the process of issuing a circular to preempt and prevent any further repetition, the court said advisories don’t help.

“There has to be something more than that. There are two aspects. Why has this happened? There has to be a definite answer; secondly, it should not happen in future. Of course, you can take remedial action, but advisories don’t have any effect. Every time some cover-up is made,” Justice Gupta said.

While the court said police may have some explanation on the media reporting of the supplementary chargesheet, it asked how the disclosure statements were in the media much earlier. Lekhi responded that since it was a UAPA case, several steps have to be taken during which the file goes to different places.

Senior Advocate Siddharth Aggarwal, representing Tanha, argued that the accused in the UAPA case are “terrorists” today and if what they have allegedly done is fundamental to the fabric of this country then “how dare anybody disclose such a confidential and serious investigation”.

“And Delhi Police, because its own officers have to be investigated, is going to say ‘no, no… in this case let us not stir up a hornet’s nest’,” added Aggarwal.

He told the court that government files move between public servants and the UAPA file does not go to a media house or the accused for sanction. He also prayed for an investigation to unearth the truth.

Justice Gupta said what Agarwal’s argument boils down to is that it is a matter which needs registration of an FIR. While listing the case for hearing on September 8, the court asked Delhi Police to file written submissions in two weeks. Agarwal told the court that the petitioner has already filed his submissions.

Tanha in his petition filed last year argued that the timing of the “leak” of the purported statement — which is inadmissible in law — to the media and “publication of this false information purportedly from the police files, at a time when bail application of the petitioner is pending consideration before the trial court, creates a reasonable apprehension that the process of justice is being attempted to be subverted”. His bail was pending before the trial court then. Tanha was released on bail by the High Court in June.

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