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2020 Delhi riots: Muslim man’s murder accused gets bail

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A Delhi court has granted bail to a man accused of murder during the 2020 North East Delhi riots, saying in the name of opposing the bail plea the prosecution tried to mislead the court as eyewitnesses did not establish his culpability.

The court also asked the Commissioner of Police Sanjay Arora to sensitise all Investigating Officers (IOs) about their duty towards assisting the court in a fair manner.

Additional Sessions Judge Pulastya Pramachala was hearing the bail plea of Rishabh Chaudhary in a case of rioting and alleged murder of a man called Mushraff, whose body was found in a drain near Johripur Pulia in Gokalpuri on February 27, 2020.

According to the postmortem report, there were 12 external injuries on the body and the cause of death was injuries to the brain produced by blunt force impact.

“…Cited eyewitnesses have been examined, but they did not establish the incident in question and the other two remaining witnesses did not claim having seen any person in the mob I find the applicant to be entitled to bail,” the judge said in an order passed on Friday.

“Hence, the bail application is allowed and applicant Rishabh Chaudhary is admitted to bail on his furnishing personal bond and surety bond in the sum of Rs 30,000 each with one surety in the like amount,” the judge added.

The judge said the statement of an eyewitness before the Investigating Officer (IO) identifying the accused had no evidentiary value and that the same witness in his testimony before the court categorically stated he had not identified anyone in the riotous mob.

But the IO’s reply did not mention the witness’ statement before the court, the judge said.

“It is well within the knowledge of the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) and IO that statement under section 161 (examination of witnesses by police) of the code of criminal procedure (CrPC) cannot stand before the testimony given before the court and hence, the purpose of not mentioning the testimony of this witness given before the court appears to be nothing but to mislead this court ,” the judge said.

The judge noted the submissions of the SPP that one of the prosecution witnesses had identified Chaudhary as a member of the riotous mob and that the IO had mentioned him in the reply.

But in his testimony before the court, the other alleged eyewitness did not say anything about the incident which allegedly occurred on February 25 from around 7.30 pm to 8 pm, and which was being probed in the present case, the judge said.

“Thus, I find that in the name of opposing bail application through a reply the prosecution has attempted to mislead the court rather than assisting in a fair manner to project the correct picture of the developments taking place in the case,” the judge said.

He said any reply being filed by the IO or prosecution must be with the objective to assist the court and it was imperative to have a fair and transparent reporting of the facts.

“If the reply is filed in a jealous manner, thereby suppressing the material facts, it cannot be said to be assistance to the court. Hence, I find that there is a requirement to sensitise all the IOs in respect of their duty towards the court, so as to assist in a fair manner, rather than adopting the practice of hide and seek,” the judge said.

“Hence, once again I call upon the Commissioner of Police to do the needful for proper sensitisation of all the IOs in this respect,” the judge added.

The Gokalpuri police station had registered an FIR against 12 accused, including Chaudhary for various offences under the Indian Penal Code, including rioting, murder, criminal conspiracy and kidnapping or abducting in order to murder.

The other accused in the case are Lokesh Kumar Solanki, Pankaj Sharma, Sumit Chaudhary, Ankit Chaudhary, Prince, Jatin Sharma, Vivek Panchal, Himanshu Thakur, Sahil, Sandeep and Tinku Arora.

In his bail plea, Chaudhary said he was arrested on the basis of the disclosure statement of the main accused Solanki but no recovery was effected from his possession and he was never related to Kattar Hindu Ekta’ WhatsApp group, directly or indirectly.

Chaudhary’s counsel said the applicant is a student of graduation aged 22 years and no fruitful purpose would be served by keeping him in jail.

The name of the WhatsApp group had surfaced in a supplementary charge sheet filed by the Delhi Police against nine accused, including Chaudhary, for the alleged murder of a man named Hashim Ali during the riots.

According to the charge sheet, ‘Kattar Hindu Ekta’ group was created on February 25. Its alleged aim was to exact revenge for the troubles faced by Hindus and promote enmity between different groups on the ground of religion. It allegedly acted in a way which was prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.

In the excerpts from the chats exchanged by the group filed in the charge sheet dated September 26, 2020, one of the members claimed RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) activists had come to support them.

Communal clashes had broken out in North East Delhi on February 24 between the supporters and opponents of the new citizenship law. The violence soon spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.

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