New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Wednesday quashed four FIRs registered in connection with the 2020 northeast Delhi riots, noting that they contained identical sets of facts.
A single-judge bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad said that the four FIRs, which were filed on the burning of a compound in Maujpur area, were contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court wherein no second FIR can be filed for the same offence.
“The law on the subject has been settled keeping in line with the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court of India. There can be no second FIR and no fresh investigation in respect of the same cognizable offence or same occurrence giving rise to one or more cognizable offences,” said Justice Prasad.
The order came on a petition filed by Atir, who has been named in five FIRs connected to the burning of different parts of the same compound during the riots in February last year.
With the high court judgment, the police can now proceed with investigation only under the first FIR filed in this case in March 2020 at the Jafrabad Police Station.
The four FIRs
The incident mentioned in the FIRs occurred on 24 February 2020 when a compound in the Maujpur area of northeast Delhi, which housed a joint family, was looted and set on fire by a mob.
According to Tara Narula, the lawyer of the accused, all five of the FIRs registered against Atir were filed by members of the same family and mentioned the same incident.
Narula pointed out that all the complainants gave a similar estimate of the extent of damage caused to the building due to the riots, implying that all the cases contained the same facts.
She further suggested that none of the complainants had witnessed the incident or seen who started the fire.
Furthermore, the fact that only one fire brigade had doused the fire indicated only one incident was reported at the spot.
Special Public Prosecutor Anuj Handa, meanwhile, defended the filing of multiple FIRs and argued that the cases relate to different properties and the damage caused by the arson is to be borne individually.
‘All FIRs identical in content’
The high court, however, did not accept the prosecutor’s contention. It referred to the site plan submitted by the police in a charge sheet, which showed that all properties that were burnt were in very close proximity with each other.
The place of incident mentioned in all the complaints, the high court remarked, are located in different parts of the same compound, which is enclosed within a single boundary wall.
“All the above FIRs are identical in their content and more or less a facsimile of one another and pertain to the same occurrence,” it said.
After examining the contents of the complaint, the high court bench concluded that the houses in the compound belonged to different members of the same family and has been divided by their forefathers, a fact that was admitted by one of the five complainants.
Since the accused in all the five is the same, the court allowed the police to place the evidence gathered against him in the four quashed FIRs in the single surviving FIR.
Tushar Kohli is a final-year student at Army Institute of Law, Mohali, and is interning at ThePrint