New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Friday granted bail to Faizan Khan, one of the 15 individuals booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), for his alleged involvement in the February riots that broke out in northeast Delhi this year.
The court observed that there was no evidence to corroborate the prosecution’s theory that Khan was engaged in any form of terror funding or any other related activity.
According to the Delhi Police Special Cell chargesheet, which was filed in September, Khan had allegedly helped co-accused Asif Iqbal Tanha to procure a sim card with fake documents.
The police claimed that the number was the ‘official number’ of Jamia Coordination Committee that allegedly mobilised participants for anti-CAA protests, which triggered the riots in Northeast Delhi during US President Donald Trump’s state visit.
However, the High Court bench led by Justice Suresh Kait held that the police produced no evidence to demonstrate that Khan had “active knowledge” about the utilisation of said sim card.
This is not the first time Justice Kait has revealed gaping holes in the police investigation into the Delhi riots.
ThePrint accessed nine orders, delivered by Justice Kait since 1 September, where he granted bail to the accused in Delhi riots-related cases on varied grounds. From unreliable police witnesses to delay in FIR registration, Justice Kait’s orders have highlighted the police’s lack of preparedness in gathering cogent evidence against the accused.
FIRs registered belatedly
Of the nine cases reviewed by ThePrint, the primary reason for bail has been belated registration of FIRs.
While the riots broke out on 24 February, FIRs were registered days after the destruction and violence in the area, in some cases they were registered after a week.
In a bail order passed on 4 September, in favour of one Danish — who was accused of participating in the riots — Justice Kait noted the FIR against him was lodged on 2 March.
Similarly, in another case of rioting, the court observed, the FIR was registered on 4 March.
In an attempt to murder case, the judge granted bail to one Kasim because his name was included in the FIR, seven days after the alleged incident. The injured had given a statement on the incident on 2 March, and revealed Kasim’s involvement a day later — only after two police constables identified him as an assailant.
Two other accused — Mohd Rehaan and Arshan Qayyum — were given bail on the same ground. In their case as well, Justice Kait had questioned the delay in filing the complaint as well as registration of the FIR.
Planted police witnesses
Some other bail orders issued by Justice Kait were based on the fact that police officials present on the spot did not make PCR calls or daily diary (DD) entries on times, especially when they claimed to have witnessed the incident.
In four of the nine orders, the police officials claimed they were present at the site of crime. However, noting their failure to immediately inform the nearest police station or lodge a complaint with the PCR, the judge rejected their statements against the accused.
Justice Kait granted bail to one Irshad Ahmed, a close aide of former Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain, observing that the two police constables, who were key eyewitnesses in the incident, were planted.
The judge said that both had identified Ahmed, but had not made any complaint on 25 February — the date of the incident. The FIR in the case was lodged on 28 February, he said.
No forensic evidence or CCTV footage
The accused in seven of the nine cases ended in bail because the police had failed to produce CCTV footage, video clip or photographic evidence to corroborate their charges.
In one case, Justice Kait said that in the CCTV footage submitted, the accused could be seen standing as a bystander. Furthermore, the call detail records of the accused did not support the police version that he had left his residence.
Similarly, a 65-year-old man who was booked for damaging a mosque during the riots was given bail due to absence of any CCTV footage. In fact, Justice Kait held the man was a victim of riots because his house was destroyed by an unlawful assembly.
A man charged with causing grievous injury with a country-made pistol was also released on bail when the forensic report did not support the police case.
Justice Kait also granted bail to Pinjra Tod member, Devangana Kalita, with the observation that the police case diary did not prove she had instigated anyone to participate in the riot.
According to him, Kalita was present at a “peaceful agitation”, which was her fundamental right.
Legal experts told ThePrint that even though Justice Kait has not commented on the merits of any of these cases, his observations are likely to damage the prosecution case during trial.
Advocate Gyanant Singh said, “His remarks are an indirect commentary on the merits of the case. They highlight the weak links in the police theory. Also, these orders become the basis for co-accused or those who are similarly placed to seek bail.”
However, Justice Kait did reject two bail petitions in a murder and an attempt to murder case. In both of them, he held that the witnesses had identified the accused as part of the mob involved in clashes.
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