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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Half-baked, useless piece of paper: Delhi HC pulls up police on report

The court also asked the Special Commissioner of Police (Vigilance) to appear before it Friday.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: March 2, 2021 7:35:48 am
Delhi HCThe Delhi High Court (file)

IN A scathing indictment of the vigilance inquiry conducted by police into the alleged leak of an accused’s “confession statement” in the conspiracy case related to the Northeast Delhi riots, the Delhi High Court Monday described the probe report submitted before it as “half-baked”, “a useless piece of paper”, and “worse than…what they do in an ordinary theft case”.

The court also asked the Special Commissioner of Police (Vigilance) to appear before it Friday. It said that such leaks need to be controlled for “fairness” to the accused and for “purity of investigation”.

Hearing a petition filed by Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha against the alleged leak, Justice Mukta Gupta said: “Do you want me to comment on this vigilance inquiry? I will say this is a useless paper and rather it is contempt of court that this court had asked for a proper inquiry to be conducted on your own statement where you thought it was a matter of national importance and you were also aggrieved that your investigation papers have been leaked… and see this vigilance inquiry.”

“This vigilance inquiry is worse than even a routine PG (Public Grievance) Cell inquiry… what they do in an ordinary theft case,” observed the court.

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The Delhi Police, which has denied any role in the alleged leak, told the court in a report on the status of the vigilance inquiry that “copies of complete case file along with documents were sent by Special Cell to the administrative offices of GNCTD (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi) & MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) for obtaining approvals/ sanctions. Alleged leakage of the disclosure statement of the complainant by the investigating agency has not been substantiated so far.”

The court, which had earlier sought the original file of the inquiry, remarked: “Lest tomorrow you say it has been leaked from this office”. The comment was made after Delhi Police counsel Amit Mahajan submitted that he has not seen the file himself since it was directly sent to the court.

Questioning the vigilance conclusion that the allegation of a leak was “unsubstantiated”, the court said it would have been unsubstantiated when it would not have happened. It said the allegation was substantiated when the petitioner came before the court and the question now is who has done it. The media person is saying “it is in my hand” and is reading it out, it said.

When the Delhi Police counsel submitted it was also aggrieved and action will be taken in case the media outlet, Zee News, claims that some police personnel has provided it to them, the court observed that it was a case of theft of documents if the property has been taken out illegally and unauthorizedly. “If he (media person) does not want to disclose (the source), then you register FIR,” observed the court.

Police responded that action will be taken if the court reaches the conclusion that theft has taken place. However, it also added that it has tried to look at case laws to find if it amounts to theft but “tomorrow there will be an allegation against the government that we are trying to browbeat the media”. It added that campaigns are run when action is taken against media houses and various judgements have been passed by the Supreme Court in that background.

The bench said “campaigns” do not deter the courts and should not deter the government. “If any offence is committed, there is no bar… no judgement bars it,” it said. Tanha’s counsel Siddharth Aggarwal submitted that the authorities previously have taken action against the media when they have spoken against Delhi Police and one media house was once even told to not air anything.

The court also observed that the files, when taken to the Delhi government or MHA for sanction, are not sent by courier but taken by police officers by hand and handed over to officers there. It further asked where in the inquiry does it identify who took the file to the Delhi government and MHA, and brought it back. The document would not have been lying on the road, observed the court.

“The IO (Investigating Officer) may still not be an IPS Officer but there it is a senior IAS officer. What did you do thereafter? Where have you noted who took the file to GNCTD and MHA and who brought it back. (Were) these disclosure statements even sent over there or not? What was the purpose? Was the purpose for sanction in which of course the complete file goes but once your investigation itself is not completed, where is the question of seeking sanction at this stage,” asked the court, adding the report is “absolutely silent” regarding the aspects.

Observing that the file does not even say who conducted the inquiry, the court noted that it has also been approved by the CP after its completion. “You had all the time from September 16 till January…that is more than four months… after four months, there are barely 4-5 statements which won’t have taken more than 10 minutes,” it added.

Tanha in his petition filed last year has said that the timing of the alleged leak of the purported statement 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”.

The confession “statement” is inadmissible in law, argued his counsel Siddharth Aggarwal on Monday, adding that Tanha was pronounced guilty even before the beginning of trial in the case.

The court previously had asked Zee News to disclose the source from where it got the alleged statement. However, the channel in a reply to court had said that its reporter got a copy of “a few portions of the confessional statement” during its “extensive and relentless coverage” of the riots.

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