India

Delhi riots: HC dissatisfied over police’s vigilance inquiry report over media leak

The Delhi High Court Monday expressed dissatisfaction over Delhi Police’s vigilance inquiry report, conducted on the allegation of leaking to media confessional statement of a Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university student, who was arrested in a case related to communal violence in northeast Delhi last year.

Terming the inquiry to be worse than an ordinary inquiry in a petty theft case, the high court said the report was completely silent and asked the Special Commissioner of Police (Vigilance) to be present in the virtual proceedings on March 5 in the matter.

“This vigilance inquiry is even worse than what they do in an ordinary inquiry in a petty theft case. These are not files sent through couriers, these are hand-held files,” Justice Mukta Gupta said.

The court was informed by the police that it had sent the complete case file to the Delhi government and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

To this, the court said, “these are senior IAS officers. Where did you do the inquiry, who did you inquire of? Where were the files sent? Who took them to the Delhi government and MHA and who brought them back, there is nothing in the report. It is completely silent. These are not documents lying on road.” The high court was hearing a plea by JMI student Asif Iqbal Tanha alleging misconduct by police officials in leaking his disclosure statement, recorded by the probe agency during the investigation, to the media.

It had earlier directed the police to file report on vigilance inquiry on leakage of confessional statement of the accused.

During the hearing, the high court said if the vigilance inquiry is unable to find out what happened, harsher orders will be passed and that the police will have to find out from were the leakage took place.

“The vigilance inquiry report says that the allegations were unsubstantiated. No, the allegations were substantiated. You were to find out who did it,” the judge said.

Advocate Amit Mahajan, representing the Delhi Police, said the police was equally aggrieved by the leakage of information and that it was undesirable.

To this, the court said it was not just undesirable, it was prejudicial to the accused and these things need to be controlled for fairness to the accused and purity of the investigation.

Advocate Siddharth Aggarwal, appearing for Tanha, said the objective of the broadcast by the news channel was to malign Tanha.

He argued if the Delhi Police was honest, transparent and showed its intent, it could be an agency that could be trusted but it was only concerned about protecting its own people.

The court concluded hearing arguments of Tanha’s counsel and listed the matter for March 5 for hearing submissions of counsel for Delhi Police and media house, Zee News Media Corporation Ltd, represented through advocate Vijay Aggarwal.

Tanha’s counsel had earlier submitted that apart from examining the question as to the steps taken by the police regarding the leak of documents, a cognisable offence has also been committed and it is necessary to take proper action.

He had contended that the action of the media houses — Zee News Media Corporation Ltd and OpIndia — in placing such documents in the media violated the programme code and sought time to file a written statement in this regard.

The high court had earlier questioned Zee News over broadcast of the alleged confession statement of Tanha in the riots case, saying such documents cannot be taken out and published.

It had directed the media house to file an affidavit disclosing the name of the source from whom the concerned journalist got the documents.

Earlier, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (special cell) in an affidavit had said that Delhi Police was also aggrieved by the news report in which the alleged confessional statement of Tanha was leaked out.

The police affidavit had also stated that none of its officials indulged in the investigation of the case leaked out the information to the media.

The plea has also sought direction to the media houses to take down the sensitive/confidential information leaked to them by the officials of Delhi Police.

Tanha, in his petition, said he was aggrieved by various publications reporting that he has confessed to orchestrating the Delhi riots and alleged that he was coerced to sign certain papers in the effective custody of police.

Tanha, who was arrested in May 2020, is currently lodged in judicial custody in the Delhi riots case.

Tanha, a third-year student of BA in Persian language, was earlier arrested in connection with the violence in the Jamia area during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in December 2019.

The police had said that Tanha, a resident of Abul Fazal Enclave in Shaheen Bagh, was a member of the Students Islamic Organization and was part of the Jamia Coordination Committee which spearheaded protests against the new citizenship law.

On December 15, 2019, protesters had turned violent, torching four public buses and two police vehicles and pelting stones at the police and civilians, near JMI. At least 40 people including students, policemen and firefighters were injured in the incident.

Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24, 2020 after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.

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