Delhi High Court reproached Delhi police for submitting a ‘half-baked’ vigilance enquiry report into leakage to media of Delhi riots accused Asif Iqbal Tanha’s statement. Livelaw reported that the court observed that the police had failed to identify the source of the leak, “This vigilance enquiry is even worse than what they do in a petty theft case,” the court remarked.
Bar and Bench reported that, the bench of Justice Mukta Gupta directed that Special Commissioner of Police (Vigilance) be present before the court at the next hearing, “Your Special CP will come and explain how it (the allegation of leak) is unsubstantiated. The allegation is substantiated. If you can’t do it in your vigilance enquiry, orders will have to be passed (by the court),” she said.
The court clarified that it was not its opinion that the Delhi Police were solely responsible for the leak, but observed that the authorities must now take action as per law. The court suggested including private parties to be part of the vigilance enquiry.
The court dismissed the report’s conclusion that the allegations of leakage to the media were unsubstantiated, and said that it does not become so merely because Delhi Police had failed to identify the source of the leak. The court also remarked that the statement was not a document “lying on the road” that the media could have accessed, instead, these were documents handled by senior level IAS officers.
LiveLaw reported that the court said, “Mind you, these are senior IAS officials. Where did you do the enquiry, who did you enquire of? Where were the files sent? Who took them to the government of National Capital territory of Delhi (GNCTD) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and who brought them back from there?”
As per Bar and Bench, the court said, “Not saying that you’re solely responsible. You are saying that the file went to GNCTD and MHA. They are taken by your officer by hand and dealt by senior IAS officers. You have to find out when leak took place.. It is also theft.. It is your property. You are entitled to take action in law”.
Counsel for Delhi Police, Amit Mahajan stated that the leak was undesirable and the investigating agency was also aggrieved by it, but at the same time raised concern that if authorities take action against journalists, they could face backlash. The court responded that there is no bar on taking action against anyone who has committed an offence.
The court noticed that over a period of 4 months, only 4-5 statements were recorded. “..it does not say anything. Do you want me to say it is a useless piece of paper? Should I say it is in contempt of court? The file does not even show who conducted the vigilance enquiry,” the court remarked.
Tanha had filed a petition last year alleging that the police had leaked his disclosure statement to the media, as news portals like OpIndia and Zee Media had carried news reports allegedly establishing his guilt. Tanha’s counsel Siddharth Aggarwal pointed out that all accused in the case were facing this issue of leakage of their statements. Aggarwal brought to the court’s attention the order passed by the court’s subordinate bench in a similar plea filed by Pinjra Tod member, Devangana Kalita in which a direction was passed to Delhi Police, restraining them from issuing statements and communications naming her in relation to the case, till the commencement of trial.
In October, 2020 bench of Justice Vibhu Bakru that was hearing this petition then, had asked Zee News to disclose its source from where it had received an alleged “confessional statement” of Tanha. Justice Vibhu Bakru issued the order after the Delhi Police informed HC that “none of the police personnel involved in the investigation had leaked details of the investigation.”
The “news reports” aired had “reported” that the Tanha had “confessed to organising and inciting communal riots that occurred in North-East Delhi”. However, Tanha, submitted in the High Court that he was “coerced by police officials to sign certain papers and make statements while in their effective custody”.
Sudhir Choudhary, editor, Zee news had anchored a show titled Confessions of Delhi’s well planned riots. Jamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha, who was arrested by the Delhi Police in May this year in connection with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) violence in December 2019 in Jamia Nagar in the national capital, had made “shocking revelations during questioning” alleged the show. Choudhary then read out the supposed “confession” and highlighted what he thought were important details about “planning violence, distributing money, etc”.
The case will be heard next on March 5.