Student activist Asif Iqbal Tanha who was granted bail in the conspiracy case of the North East Delhi violence in June, continues to fight his case for the media leak of his alleged confessional statements made to the police. In a hearing held on September 8, Tanha’s counsel Siddharth Aggarwal told the bench of Justice Mukta Gupta that since the Delhi Police could not conclusively establish how the leakage happened, they cannot be trusted to investigate their own affairs, reported LiveLaw.
He further told the court that the Delhi Police, being the custodian of law and the case property in the matter, has failed in performing their public duty.
Aggarwal pointed out that every person who came in contact with the documents or details was a public official – belonging to Delhi Police, court staff or government department. He also suggested that if this enquiry is not yielding results, an independent body should conduct an investigation. He submitted that if Delhi Police are saying they have not leaked the documents, then it’s their bounden duty to ensure that whosoever has done it is dealt with strongly.
The matter will be heard next on October 1.
In March, bench of Justice Mukta Gupta had reprimanded Delhi Police for submitting a ‘half-baked’ vigilance enquiry report. “This vigilance enquiry is even worse than what they do in a petty theft case,” the court had remarked. 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.
In 2020, Tanha had filed a petition 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. On August 18, 2020 while Tanha’s bail petition was pending before a special judge, news channels on “prime time news” read out extracts from his alleged confessional and disclosure statements.
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. He had alleged on his show that Jamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha, who was arrested by the Delhi Police in May 2020 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”. Choudhary had then read out the supposed “confession” and highlighted what he thought were important details about “planning violence, distributing money, etc”.
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.”
Similar allegations of media leak have been made by other accused in the conspiracy case including Umar Khalid, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal who stated that after the news media reports, they were being discriminated against in prison.
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