Disposing a petition challenging an order issued by Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) Praveer Ranjan to heads of teams probing the Northeast Delhi riots, the Delhi High Court observed Friday that “IOs (investigating officers) of the case shall deal the cases as per the law and shall not bother about the instruction issued on 8, July 2020 which stated that no arbitrary arrest should be made in any case and all evidences must be discussed with Special PPs assigned to each case.”
Justice Suresh Kumar Kait said reports in electronic/print media on the order — the order stated that arrests of “some Hindu youth” from riot-hit areas has led to a “degree of resentment among the Hindu community” — are “against the letter and spirit of the order.”
As reported by The Indian Express, Ranjan’s July 8 order had also stated that “due care and precaution” must be taken while making arrests. The order, addressed to senior officers heading probe teams, asked them to “suitably” guide the investigating officers.
The order was challenged in court by families of two persons killed in the February violence — Sahil Parvez, whose father was shot dead near his home, and Mohd Saeed Salmani, whose mother was lynched inside her house. The petitioners had cited The Indian Express report, ‘Resentment in Hindus on arrests, take care: Special CP to probe teams’, published on July 15.
On the last date of hearing, Justice Kait had asked Ranjan to place before the High Court “five such letters” issued by him or his predecessor. The court had also asked why it was necessary to issue such an order, and observed: “He (Ranjan) is a senior IPS officer. He doesn’t know what to be issued, what not to be issued… While sitting in office, issue a letter and think that he has made a great thing.”
During the hearing Friday, Justice Kait told Mehmood Pracha, counsel for the petitioners, “I have seen other circulars issued by senior officers. This is not a first letter issued by this officer. Various letters were issued when Hindu and Muslim organisations met Commissioner of Police and various orders have been issued… It has not been mentioned that you arrest Hindu or Muslims without evidence… He is not saying don’t arrest Hindus.”
Justice Kait observed that since, in the petitioner’s case, “accused have already been chargesheeted before the letter dated 8 July 2020, no prejudice is caused”.
“I hereby observe that issuing any letter, especially in such a type of situation, to concerned officers, due care shall be taken. In view of the above, the petition is disposed of,” he said.
He also remarked that “media being the fourth pillar of democracy, I suggest to the media that the news should be clear after verifying the facts”.
He made the observations on media reporting following arguments by central government standing counsel Amit Mahajan, appearing for Delhi Police, who told the court that through selective reading of the order, the issue was sensationalised and communalised.
Referring to The Indian Express report’s headline ‘Resentment in Hindus on arrests, take care: Special CP to probe teams’, Mahajan told the court, “I only want my lord to observe that the media in general should be careful and cautious, and should not sensationalise unnecessarily without knowing the actual facts. See the headline; is it not sensationalising and communalising the issue?”
Mahajan went on to argue that such media reports may “influence the trial courts”.
Pracha opposed this, stating, “The court should not make any such observation because it can restrict the media’s freedom of speech.”
Mahajan told the court that till date, 535 Hindus and 513 Muslims have been chargesheeted, and that a total of 22 persons, all Hindus, were arrested in the two FIRs pertaining to the petitioners, and the present application was an attempt at “browbeating and harassing the police”.
Pracha told the court, “My grievance is that the main culprits are not being arrested; they are being protected. Arresting 16 people is not the requirement of law; arresting all people is the requirement of law.”
Pracha also asked the court to direct the police to file a reply to his petition. The court, however, said, “Asking them to file a reply on petition will not serve the purpose. Why unnecessarily continue with this petition — there will be no result, whatever has happened has happened. This letter was issued in the month of July. Cases were registered much earlier. No prejudice can be caused by this matter.”
Responding to The Indian Express report on July 15, the then PRO of Delhi Police, Mandeep S Randhawa, wrote: “The letter was written only to inform the investigating officers about the representations being received from both the communities and to sensitise and guide them through the investigation of these cases.”
But there was no such mention in the Special CP’s order, which specifically highlighted “resentment among Hindu community” over arrests of “some Hindu youth”.
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