New Delhi: A Delhi court Thursday extended the time period for the Special Cell of Delhi Police to complete its probe in one of the cases related to Northeast Delhi riots that broke out in February this year.
The case involved 19 people against whom stringent charges under the anti-terror law — Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) — have been invoked.
While 15 of them are in judicial custody, four are on bail. Besides the UAPA, they have also been booked under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including murder and attempt to murder.
Additional sessions judge Amitabh Rawat accepted the application filed by special public prosecutor Amit Prasad, seeking extension of time for probe against 10 of the 15 accused, including former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan and Pinjra Tod member Devangna Kalita.
“After perusing the present application-cum-report of the special public prosecutor and the case diary and record, I am satisfied that the prosecution has been able to make out a case for extension of the period of investigation and detention of the accused,” the judge recorded in his 14-page order, giving time until 17 September to the Special Cell to wrap up its probe.
The court also extended the detention period of the 10 accused, which means they may not be able to get bail before 17 September.
UAPA allows 180 days extension of detention
Prasad moved the application on 10 August under section 43(D) of the UAPA that allows a prosecuting agency — in this case Delhi Police — to seek more time to complete its probe in a UAPA case.
This law gives 90 days to an investigating agency to conclude the investigation. However, in case the inquiry remains inconclusive, the probe can carry on for another 90 days.
For this, the agency has to seek permission from the court where it has to file the charge sheet. As a result, the detention period of the accused also gets extended.
According to court records, two accused — Khalid and Jahan — will complete 180 days in custody by 17 September.
They were arrested on 21 March 2020 for allegedly hatching the conspiracy that led to the large-scale riots in Northeast Delhi, which also coincided with the visit of American President Donald Trump.
Other accused — Meeran Haider, Tahir Hussain, Gulfisha and Shafa Ur Rehman — will have spent almost five months in jail by 17 September, while Asif Iqbal, Shadab Ahmad, Natasha Narwal and Devangna Kalita will have complete a little over 90 days.
In this case, the police have sought extension for the second time with regard to six accused — Khalid, Jahan, Haider, Hussain, Gulfisha and Rehman — and for the first time in connection with the remaining four.
The court dismissed the defence lawyers’ opposition to the extension of application.
Drawing references from Supreme Court and Delhi High Court judgments, it said the appearance of the accused and their lawyer at this stage do not mean they are entitled to object to the extension. It is to merely inform them about the court’s decision to extend the time.
Some lawyers challenged the extension on the ground that the law allows an extension only once and not twice. However, the judge disagreed with this contention and opined that the UAPA permitted extension upto 180 days.
‘Large-scale, multi-layered conspiracy needs to be unearthed’
On perusal of the case diaries and the special public prosecutor’s report, the judge observed: “The investigation is still going on regarding the conspiracy which is deep-rooted, large scale and multi-layered and all the different aspects pertaining to different accused person, including their inter-linkages are being investigated as regards the conspiracy.”
According to the prosecutor, the role of different organisations involving different accused and groups is still under investigation. The prosecutor also contended that there is huge electronic data that needs to be examined along with money trail and suspicious funding for riots.
“Since overall conspiracy is being unearthed and because of inter-linkages of accused persons whose custody is expiring on different dates, the request of seeking extension of period of investigation and detention until 17 September is made out,” the judge held.
Lalit Valecha, lawyer of accused Ishrat Jahan, said it was unfortunate that the police in this case have misused the “draconian” powers conferred upon them by the UAPA law.
He contended that their only purpose for the extension was to keep the accused in custody for a longer period.