1 March 2021 3:26 PM GMT
Hearing Delhi riots conspiracy case accused Asif Iqbal Tanha's writ petition against his media trial, a single judge bench of Justice Mukta Gupta of Delhi High Court today came down heavily on the Vigilance Branch of Delhi Police for its failure to identify the source of leakage of case file documents to the media in his case. The bench orally observed, "This vigilance enquiry is even...
Dismissing the enquiry report's conclusion that the allegations of leakage to media were unsubstantiated, the court said that the case file information leakage did not become unsubstantiated merely because the Delhi Police had failed to identify the source of the leakage.
The court observed that the Disclosure Statement which had been leaked out was not a document "lying on the road" for the media to have accessed it with ease, and said that these were case documents handled by hand by senior IAS officials.
Standing Counsel for the Centre, representing the Delhi Police, Amit Mahajan stated that it admitted that the leakage was undesirable, to which the court said that it was "not just undesirable. It is prejudicial to the accused, the case and the purity of the investigation. And this is in contempt."
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?"
Tanha's case was that several media channels, including Zee News, had in their reports referred to facts from Tanha's 'Disclosure Statement' which was a part of the official case record, and that the free-airing of facts from the statement by these media channels prejudiced his right to a free and fair trial – and subjecting him to a media trial. Adv. Siddharth Aggarwal appearing for Tanha, referred to the Zee report which was aired on Aug 18, 2020 and said that the report was based on the disclosure statement which alleged that Asif, a student of Jamia Milia Islamia, had set fire to buses in the Delhi riots and actively participated in them.
Aggarwal said that while the Disclosure Statement would not anyway be relied on in a court of law, his problem was the fact that it had "been put out there even before the first ball is played in a court of law."
Tanha had prayed for the allegedly violative news reports to be taken down and for an enquiry into why this information was let out in the first place.
His counsel said that the Delhi High Court on Oct 15, 2020 had directed the police to disclose the source as well, however, in their compliance with this order they had merely filed an affidavit on Jan 16 this year, stating that the allegations of leakage were "unsubstantiated".
Aggarwal also raised question marks on the agency's conduct stating that if the this is "an agency which is only concerned about protecting its own people," and therefore another enquiry by the same agency would be of no use. He prayed for an independent enquiry in to the matter.
Reflecting on her discontentment with the manner in which the enquiry was carried out, Justice Gupta said that, "Ultimately, it may not be the police officers (who leaked it) but the manner in which the vigilance enquiry has been done, really calls for a check."
The Court adjourned further hearing to March 5 asking Special CP(Vigilance) to join the virtual court proceedings.