New Delhi: A trial court pulled up the Delhi Police for its lack of assistance in the February 2020 northeast riots cases, noting that it was “really painful” that in a majority of matters pending trial, investigating officers had not appeared in court, either physically or through video conferencing.
Additional sessions judge Vinod Yadav, who pronounced his order Saturday, said the police’s absence was observed particularly at the time of consideration of charge, and called on the commissioner to ensure remedial steps were taken to ensure due process was carried out.
Further, he said he had been given to understand that investigating officers do not even brief the special public prosecutors (PP) appointed to argue the cases in trial courts.
Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal had last year nominated an exclusive panel of advocates to prosecute the riots cases in the trial court, instead of regular prosecutors, a move that was strongly objected to by the Arvind Kejriwal government.
“In the morning of the date of hearing on charge, they simply e-mail PDF of the chargesheet to the learned Special PP and leave it upon him to argue the matter on charge as it is, without giving him an opportunity to go deep into the facts and the investigation conducted in the matter,” the judge observed.
The remarks were part of the court order that framed charges against two Muslim men for their alleged involvement in the three-day riots that broke out last year. The court rejected the defence’s argument that the case falsely implicated the two men.
‘Half-baked chargesheet, poor standard of investigation’
The court remarked on the “poor” standard of investigation and said after filing “half-baked” chargesheet in the court, neither the IO nor the station house officer nor the supervising officers “bother to see as to what other material is required to be collected from the appropriate authority in the matters”.
The police do not even take the required steps to take the investigation to a logical end. Further, they do not even care to respond to queries of special PPs, if any, regarding the chargesheet and the further investigation to be conducted in the cases, he observed.
According to the judge, the supervising officers failed “miserably” to supervise the investigation as contemplated under the Delhi High Court rules and even the magistrate of the area concerned had not carried out his or her job properly before taking cognizance of the matter, Judge Yadav added.
Before a matter is referred to the sessions court for trial, the magistrate takes stock of the investigation process and also oversees the remand proceedings.
As a consequence, the judge noted, several accused “roped in multiple cases” continue to languish in jails.
“It is high time that the DCP of North-East District and other higher officers concerned take notice of the aforesaid observations and take immediate remedial action required in the matters,” the judge said, while also directing the police commissioner to take remedial steps
“They are free to seek the assistance of experts in this regard, failing which there is likelihood of injustice being caused to the persons involved in these cases,” stated the order.
Charge can be framed just on ‘strong suspicion’
The court framed charges against the two men for attacking and damaging the house of an ironsmith during the riots. The two will now stand for trial to face prosecution witnesses.
It said at the stage of consideration on charge, the court is not supposed to “meticulously judge” the evidence collected by the investigating agency.
“This being the initial stage of the trial, the court is not supposed to decide whether the materials collected by the investigating agency provides sufficient grounds for conviction of the accused or whether the trial is sure to culminate in his conviction,” the court said.
The standard of test applied for determining the guilt or otherwise cannot be applied at the stage of trial, the court added, saying charges can be framed in cases where there only just a strong suspicion.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)