New Delhi: Rejecting the bail petitions of four persons accused of killing an 85-year-old Muslim woman during the Delhi riots that took place in February this year, a trial court has held that, prima facie, it was apparent they were part of a “riotous mob” that targeted the victim’s house.
Additional sessions judge Vinod Yadav weighed in on the statement of witnesses and electronic evidence to conclude that the mob, armed with “lethal weapons”, had engaged in vandalism, looting and torching the house of the victim’s family.
“A careful analysis of the statements of witnesses prima facie indicates that all the aforesaid four accused persons were very well part of the unlawful assembly which had put the house of complainant on fire after committing robbery therein,” the judge said in his order of 6 August.
Large-scale communal riots broke out in Northeast Delhi following anti-CAA/NRC protests in the area. The violence led to the death of more than 53 people over the course of 10 days. More than 200 were injured, and shops and houses were burnt down during the riots.
‘Case of a specific target killing
According to the prosecution charges, the four accused — Prakash Chand, Arun Kumar, Ravi Kumar and Suraj Singh — were part of an unlawful assembly that entered the victim’s house on 25 February at 11 am. The victim’s son Mohd Saeed Salmani was not at home when the rioters allegedly broke into the house where a garment factory was also operational.
The FIR, registered two days after the alleged incident, further claimed that the accused and others chanted communal slogans as they set the house on fire.
The rest of Salmani’s family and employees managed to escape as they all rushed to the top floor, but his mother could not reach there due to old age and died of suffocation. Her body could be retrieved only when the fire brigade managed to bring the blaze under control.
Special public prosecutor Amit Prasad argued against grant of bail to all four, contending it was a case of “specific target killing”. He pointed out that the victim’s house is located in a very narrow lane and showed a video clip of more than six minutes to support his submission. He emphasised that the accused had specifically left out the first set of houses and targeted that particular house.
He further submitted that during the course of investigation, several video clips found on different social media sites were taken on record; the source mobile phones used for recording these clips were also seized and referred to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL).
Using the clips, he showed that a huge crowd that had assembled outside the victim’s house indulged in stone pelting and ransacking.
That the accused were part of the “riotous mob” was clearly visible in the videos, but the four accused denied their presence at the spot. One of them said he was inside the victim’s house to protect the family from the mob.
The judge, however, did not find any force in the arguments advanced by the four and dismissed their petitions on the basis of the ocular evidence of independent witnesses.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.