More activists named in riots case: Delhi Police getting desperate?

In a supplementary chargesheet, police have named a fresh set of activists, academics and politicians

Delhi riots

On Saturday, the Delhi Police filed a supplementary chargesheet in connection with the communal violence that broke out in North East Delhi in February 2020. In what appears to be yet another desperate attempt to drag known dissenters into the case, police have named activists, academics and even leaders from the other end of the political spectrum in this supplementary chargesheet based on ‘disclosure statements’ of accused already in custody.

The supplementary chargesheet names Delhi University professor Apoorvanand, documentary filmmaker Rahul Roy, economist Prof. Jayati Ghosh, activist Dr. Umar Khalid, and senior politicians Sitaram Yechury of CPI (M) and Yogendra Yadav (Swaraj Abhiyaan).

It is noteworthy that shortly after a news agency tweeted that the above-mentioned people had been named as co-conspirators, Delhi Police was forced to play on the backfoot and issue a statement clarifying that Yechury, Yadav and Ghosh were not named as either accused or co-conspirators. “It is clarified that Shri Sitaram Yechury, Shri Yogendra Yadav and Smt Jayati Ghosh have not been arraigned as accused in the supplementary chargesheet filed by Delhi Police,” said the statement.

But it cannot be denied that these names have a certain recall value as people who have never shied away from calling out the regime’s misgovernance, and dragging them into the case on any pretext can be viewed as an attempt to pin the blame for the violence on those who were peacefully protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).

Taking to Twitter, Yechry said, “We strongly protest this criminalising of peaceful protests in defence of India’s Constitution.” He added, “No condemnation is strong enough for the brazenness with which Delhi Police, acting under BJP’s top political leadership has tried to implicate prominent political leadership, academics, cultural persons & activists in connection with the horrific communal violence in NE Delhi.”



Yogendra Yadav too took to Twitter to react to the bizarre inclusion of his name in the chargesheet saying, “Harassed till proven innocent is right. Delhi Police is trying very hard to drag all any CAA protesters in the circle of conspirators. My only clarification is that as yet Delhi Police has not formally named me or Yechuri as conspirators or accused.”



He added, “Minus the legalese, @DelhiPolice is saying that we have not been named as accused, that we’ve just been named in a disclosure statement of one accused. That’s correct. As for Delhi Police truthfully recording statement of accused, I am looking for a sack of salt!!”



The names were included based on ‘disclosure statements’ allegedly made by Pinjra Tod activists Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, as well as student activist Gulfisha Fatima. However, it is alleged that the women “refused to sign” the statements. Taking to Twitter activist and CPI (ML) Politbureau member, Kavita Krishnan said, “Hey @DelhiPolice you claim @SitaramYechury @Jayati1609 @_YogendraYadav (+ presumably me) are not “accused”, just “named” in “truthfully recorded” disclosure statements. But Natasha, Devangana, Safoora “refused to sign” those statements, which are then just police scripted fiction”



The legal admissibility of ‘disclosure statements’ remains debatable given how there is always a possibility that they may have been extracted under duress or even fabricated completely. In fact, as per Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act, “No confession made to a police officer, shall be proved as against a person accused of any offence.”

However, Section 26 of the same act states, “No confession made by any person whilst he is in the custody of a police officer, unless it be made in the immediate presence of a Magistrate, shall be proved as against such person.” This means, the confession made by an accused in custody is only valid if it is made in the presence of a magistrate. Additionally, Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure deals with recording of such statements and sub-section 2 of this section says, “The Magistrate shall, before recording any such confession, explain to the person making it that he is not bound to make a confession and that, if he does so, it may be used as evidence against him; and the Magistrate shall not record any such confession unless, upon questioning the person making it, he has reason to believe that it is being made voluntarily.”

However, none of this has proved to be a deterrent for the Delhi Police who have themselves faced flak for their alleged complicity in fanning the flames of the communal conflagration. Multiple fact-finding reports by activists and civil rights organisations have highlighted instances of acts of commission or omission by the Delhi Police that allegedly led to an escalation of violence. Amnesty International India has called for an independent probe into the role of the Delhi Police in the February 2020 riots. 

The bigger question therefore is, if the investigators themselves stand accused of instigating or enabling the crime, do they have the moral right to continue investigations? Moreover, how can any of their claims or findings be taken seriously? If the Delhi Police are not dancing to the tunes of their alleged political masters and have nothing to hide, perhaps they should be open to an inquiry into their actions by an independent authority.



Police need to stop criminalising the anti CAA protests: Prof. Apoorvanand

Umar Khalid arrested by Delhi Police Special Cell



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