The Delhi High Court today granted bail to five persons accused of the murder of Head Constable Ratan Lal and for causing injuries to Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Shahdara and other police officials during the North East Delhi riots.
The single judge bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad has granted bail to accused persons Mohd Arif, Furkan, Shadab Ahmed, Suvaleen and Tabassum who were accused under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
After hearing each accused and the prosecution at length, the Court had reserved the order on Aug 16.
In the instant case, the issue before the court for consideration was when an offence of murder is committed by an unlawful assembly, then whether each person in the unlawful assembly should be denied the benefit of bail regardless of his role in the unlawful assembly or the object of the unlawful assembly.
In this regard the Court said that “the Supreme Court has consistently held that in order to convict an accused with the aid of Section 149, a clear finding needs to be given by the Court regarding the nature of unlawful common object. Furthermore, if any such finding is absent or if there is no overt act on behalf of the accused, the mere fact that the accused was armed would not be sufficient to prove common object”.
Reiterating the legal doctrine that, “Bail is the rule and jail is the exception”, the court said that, “The Supreme Court has time and again held that Courts need to be alive to both ends of the spectrum, i.e. the duty of the Courts to ensure proper enforcement of criminal law, and the duty of the Courts to ensure that the law does not become a tool for targeted harassment”.
Having regard to the fact that accused Mohd Arif, Furkan, Shadab Ahmed and Tabassum have been in custody for a considerable period of time the Court said that “the Petitioner cannot be made to languish behind bars for a longer period of time, and that the veracity of the allegations levelled against them can be tested during trial”.
The court therefore asked each accused to furnish a personal bond of ₹35,000/- with one surety of the like amount, to the satisfaction of the Trial Court/ Duty Magistrate.
The accused have been directed not to leave NCT of Delhi without prior permission of the court and to report to the concerned Police Station every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30 AM. They should be released after completing the formalities within half an hour.
The facts leading to the case are that on Feb 24, 2020 at about 01:00 PM, the protestors had mobilized near the Chand Bagh area and 25 Futa Road, and were moving towards the Main Wazirabad Road.
When they assembled near Main Wazirabad Road, it is stated that the complainant and other police officers present attempted to convince the protestors to not move towards the Main Wazirabad Road.
It is stated that though the ACP Gokalpuri and DCP Shahdara warned the protestors via loudspeaker of a government vehicle, that lack of adherence to legal warnings would necessitate strict action against the crowd, some people amongst the crowd started pelting stones and beat them with weapons that had been hidden.
This resulted in injuries to several police officers on duty and one of the Head Constables Ratan Lal succumbed to injuries.
The court made separate observations with respect to each accused.
The court said that the video footage which placed the Petitioner at the scene of crime, cannot be relied upon at this stage as the Petitioner is not explicitly visible in the same and the clothes similar to that of Arif, have been adorned by multiple others as well, and the Call Detail Records (CDR) in the instant case of the Petitioner are inconclusive as Arif is a resident of the local area, i.e. Gali No. 3. Additionally, the video footage wherein it is alleged that the petitioner is seen going towards the scene of crime, cannot be taken into account at this juncture as only his back is visible in the said footage and the authenticity of the video will be a matter of trial. Furthermore, the authenticity of the video analysis conducted which identifies Arif in multiple videos is also a matter of trial.
Court observed that the Ahmed has not been caught on any video footage in the vicinity of the protest site. Furthermore, the CDR and the Cell ID details which have been placed on record by way of the chargesheet and the supplementary showcase that the Ahmed had arrived within the vicinity of the site of the alleged incident post the commission of the alleged offence.
The court also found weight in the contention of the Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioner that if the petitioner was involved in mobilising the mob he would have been at his residence till 12:10 pm, when according to the prosecution, the preparation started at 11-12 pm, when the CCTV cameras were systematically dislocated.
Further, the CDR of the petitioner show that the petitioner was on the move. The fact that the petitioner's location is recorded through a mobile tower which is near the scene of crime cannot, at this moment, lead to a definitive conclusion that the petitioner was there at the scene of crime, and therefore, should be denied bail.
In accused Furkan’s case, the court observed that there was no electronic evidence which placed Furkan at the scene of crime, and the CDR in the instant case is inconclusive as he is a resident of the local area.
Furthermore, he was identified in above-mentioned video footage which showcased Gali No. 5, i.e. the area wherein he resided, with a danda in his hand about an hour before the crime was allegedly committed. Additionally, no incriminating material was recovered from him.
The Court has also noted that Furkan's arrest has taken place on account of disclosure statements of other co-accused and, therefore, at this juncture, this cannot form the basis of his continued arrest.
“Whether the disclosure statements of the co-accused and the identification of the Petitioner by Ct. Gyan in statement under Section 161 Cr.P.C dated 27.02.2020 is enough to connect the Petitioner herein to the case is a matter of trial”, the court said.
The court observed that Suvaleen has not been caught on any video footage in the vicinity of the protest site. The submission that the looted mobile phone of Inspector Narender Singh was found in his possession and that he had fled to Bulandshahar, Uttar Pradesh post the alleged incident could not be employed at this point as a substantial ground for the continued incarceration of the petitioner and was the subject matter of trial. The court further said that “it would not be prudent to keep the Petitioner, who is merely 18 years of age, behind bars for an undefined period of time at this stage. Continued incarceration of the petitioner with hardened criminals will only be detrimental and, thus, is not justified.”
In Tabassum’s case the court said that she has not been caught on any video footage in the vicinity of the protest site, and the contention of the prosecution that a few women wearing burqas have been caught assaulting police officials in the Vishal Chaudhary video did not have any weight at this juncture because the petitioner could not be identified in the video. The CDR of the petitioner which places her around the protest site and scene of crime is also inconclusive as the petitioner is a resident of the local area.
“Whether or not the statements of the independent public witnesses and the police officials recorded under Sections 161 and 164 Cr.P.C. are definitive, cannot be delved into by this Court and is a matter of trial. However, this Court is of the opinion that they are not sufficient to justify the continued incarceration of the Petitioner”, the Court said.
Case Title: Batch of Petitions
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