The Bhajanpura Police station of Northeast Delhi, has been in the news for various reasons this year. The most recent is that the Delhi High Court has asked Delhi Police Commissioner and DCP (Northeast) to initiate “disciplinary action” against SHO Bhajanpura. Residents of the areas who continue to suffer the after-effects of the violent communal riots of February 2020, live under its jurisdiction.
One such resident, a 45-year-old woman, had filed a complaint that she was assaulted by assault by police personnel and men in plainclothes inside the police station. She had gone to the police station to lodge a complaint about some people who had allegedly pelted stones and fired shots at her and her family during the riots. She has alleged that not only did the police not lodge an FIR, but assaulted her.
On August 8, when the petitioner and some women met the SHO, he allegedly dissuaded them from filing the complaints. “After some resilience on part of the petitioners, they were assaulted by plainclothes persons and police personnel inside the police station,” alleged her lawyer Mehmood Pracha. According to a report in The Indian Express, Pracha had approached the HC earlier seeking directions for registration of FIR and provision of police protection for her family. The HC had disposed of the petition on July 17, with directions to provide her with security and assess threat perception.
Now, the Delhi High Court has told Delhi Police that “they (the petitioner and her family) are also citizens of India” and asked them to provide additional security. According to the IE report, these observations were made by Justice Yogesh Khanna. As per court records, the woman had filed a complaint against some persons who pelted stones and fired gunshots at her during the riots. She said she was later intimidated by the same persons, who also attacked her son, grandson and husband, to withdraw the complaint.
She asked the court to direct Delhi Police Commissioner and DCP (Northeast) to initiate disciplinary action against SHO Bhajanpura, and provide adequate protection to her and her family,” reports IE.
Lawyer Pracha submitted to the court that after its earlier order, “on the intervening night of August 5-6, ‘a crowd of rowdy individuals, several of whom had also participated in the riots, came to the neighbourhood of the petitioners and started raising loud communal slogans, shouting out filthy expletives… they threatened the residents and asked them to leave the neighbourhood’.”
The IE reports that Additional Standing Counsel Rajesh Mahajan has told the court that “the DCP has assessed the situation and concluded that CCTV cameras and beat staff are sufficient at this point in time. He submitted that the beat constable visits the site at least thrice a day and CCTVs have been installed.”
The news report quotes Mahajan as telling the court that, “They (petitioner and some other women in the neighbourhood) came to the police station and threatened police officers that if they do not lodge their complaint, they will file a false complaint against them… this was a very sensitive area where riots took place in the recent past, adequate protection has already been provided. They intend to misuse that and have filed counter complaints against police, saying police are harassing them. They do not want protection, let them get private security… We are giving them protection and… facing their ire.”
To which Justice Khanna said, “If this is the situation which they are complaining in their complaint dated August 10, 2020, then provide them security. They are also citizens of India, why do you not provide them with security if they are (being) harassed?” adding, “If you provide them proper protection, then why should they complain against SHOs and DCPs? For the time being, raise some security… so they feel secure. I am directing the DCP to look into this aspect.”
It is important to recall here that this was the police station that has so far not registered an FIR on the complaint of three journalists of Caravan Magazine who were assaulted when they were reporting from Subhash Mohalla, under its jurisdiction. The woman journalist had also complained of being sexualy harassed when she was attempting to escape from the violent mob.
Noted human rights activist and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan had later called this an example of , “the collapse of rule of law on the street.” He was then speaking in solidarity with the three reporters who were attacked.
According to Bhushan the law was clear on the matter. He quoted a Supreme Court constitutional bench judgement in the Lalita Kumari case 2013, “as soon as a complaint of an offence is made it has to be registered as an FIR.” He explained that a preliminary enquiry can only be done if there is a doubt whether the complaint amounts to a legal offence. In Caravan’s case he said the reporters made a complaint alleging assault, “which every policeman knows is an offence under the Indian Penal Code.” An FIR has to be registered immediately, asserted Bhushan. The fact that they have not registered an FIR till today shows that there has been a complete breakdown, he said, raising the question if “The police is not even willing to register an FIR against BJP people? This is the state of the police”
In what can only be read as an ominous sign, one of the reporters who managed to survive the mob attack had also recalled that at the Bhajanpura police station, he heard a police officer saying that “real freedom” had come “five or seven years ago, not in 1947.”
On its part, the Delhi Police had sent a lengthy rejoinder on August 12, to the magazine, giving itself a clean chit. This police rejoinder, signed by Dr. Eish Singhal IPS, the Delhi Police Public Relations Officer (PRO) had denied that “any women or a child were physically or otherwise assaulted in the premises of Police Station Bhajanpura on the night of 8th August, 2020 .”
They said a group of women, one of whom they identified as Sanno, “came to the police station Bhajanpura and handed over complaints regarding bursting of crackers, lighting of the lamps and installing of saffron flags at iron gate in Subhash Vihar, Delhi on 05.08.2020 while celebrating foundation stone laying ceremony of Ram Temple, Ayodhya. The complaints were received vide DD No. 116, 119 and 121 and assigned to SI Vedpal for verifying the facts of the complaint. But Sanno w/o Salim sought immediate registration of FIR on her complaint. She started abusing police staff and threatened that she was sent by advocate Mahmood Pracha and said, either police should register FIR at once or she would stage Dharna on the gate of Police Station.”
According to the police the women left after being assured by police officials that “necessary action would be taken on their complaints and were advised that due to Covid-19 guidelines, no one should unnecessarily stay at public places.”
However, Sanno had made an emergency PCR and complained that “she and her daughters were beaten and molested by police officers of Bhajanpura”. The Delhi Police denied these allegations in their official statement and called them “utterly false and motivated.”
According to them their own women staff “present at the Women help desk has denied any such incident of manhandling by police staff of PS Bhajanpura in whose presence ladies were attended to.”
The Delhi High Court has now asked police to file a status report in the matter, and directed the DCP to assess the threat perception and provide additional security to the petitioner, if required.