A Delhi court has directed the accused in a Northeast Delhi riots case to return copies of the chargesheet supplied to them after police “inadvertently” put a document that contains details of protected witnesses.
A total of 15 people have been booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, with police filing the chargesheet before Karkardooma court on September 16. Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat said there was a mistake on the part of the investigating officer, and since the purpose of protecting the identity of the protected witnesses was for fair trial, an order for their protection must be passed immediately.
The court’s directions came after Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad, appearing for Delhi Police, moved an urgent application saying the identities of some protected witnesses in the case were inadvertently disclosed after untruncated judicial and investigation papers were attached to the chargesheet.
The public prosecutor approached the court after it came to the knowledge of the police that at least three protected witnesses had been approached by people with vested interest in connection with the case.
The court directed police to file fresh copies of the chargesheet after redacting details of protected witnesses, and to supply it to the 15 persons chargesheeted in the case and their counsel. In the 17,000 page chargesheet, police have made a case that the riots were a part of a larger conspiracy. The accused include former AAP councilor Tahir Hussain and Pinjra Tod members Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita.
“Under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, there is specific provision for protecting the identity of witnesses for their safety, and, accordingly, orders have been passed regarding their protection. Thus, this particular provision was meant to protect the identity and ensure their safety for the purpose of fair trial… The whole idea is to provide cover to the identity of witnesses so they can depose fairly and independently in court. Accordingly, once the order was passed by the court, the identity should not have been disclosed,” the court said in its order passed on October 9.
It directed that the accused or any other person must not divulge, publish, disclose, disseminate or circulate the identity of the protected witnesses or approach them. The court further directed the Special Cell to ensure comprehensive safety and security to all protected witnesses.
The application moved by Prasad stated that the act was neither intentional nor deliberate. “The life, liberty, safety and security of protected public witnesses are of paramount importance. The state is the protector and guardian of the life and liberty of citizens of this country. During the investigation of this case, the identity of some of the witnesses were kept confidential as contemplated under the UAPA.
“It is also necessary that the relevant documents be extracted from the judicial file and replaced with truncated version and the original is sealed and kept on record. The present application is being filed bonafide and in the interest of justice, equity and fair play,” the application said.
The application also sought the court’s directions to all accused persons and their counsel to delete/destroy any copy/prints of the chargesheet.
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