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[Delhi Riots] Vague Evidence & General Allegations Not Sufficient To Invoke 149 R/W 302 IPC: High Court Grants Bail To Five Accused In Head Constable Ratan Lal Murder Case

Nupur Thapliyal
3 Sep 2021 9:35 AM GMT
[Delhi Riots] Vague Evidence & General Allegations Not Sufficient  To Invoke 149 R/W  302 IPC: High Court Grants Bail To Five Accused In Head Constable Ratan Lal Murder Case
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The Delhi High Court on Friday granted bail to five accused in connection with murder of Head Constable Ratan Lal and causing head injuries to a DCP during the North-East Delhi riots that rocked the national capital last year. (FIR 60/2020 PS DayalPur)Justice Subramonium Prasad passed the order after reserving it last month. The Court heard at length various counsels appearing on behalf of...

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The Delhi High Court on Friday granted bail to five accused in connection with murder of Head Constable Ratan Lal and causing head injuries to a DCP during the North-East Delhi riots that rocked the national capital last year. (FIR 60/2020 PS DayalPur)

Justice Subramonium Prasad passed the order after reserving it last month. The Court heard at length various counsels appearing on behalf of the accused persons along with ASG SV Raju and Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad appearing for prosecution.

Those granted bail include accused namely Mohd. Arif, Shadab Ahmad, Furkan, Suvaleen and Tabassum.

While the order was reserved in 11 bail applications filed by different accused persons in the FIR, the Court passed orders in 5 of them.

In the case of Mohd. Arif, the Court noted that the applicability of Section 149 IPC, specifically read with Section 302, cannot be done on the basis of vague evidence and general allegations. When there is a crowd involved, at the juncture of grant or denial of bail, the Court must hesitate before arriving at the conclusion that every member of the unlawful assembly inhabits a common intention to accomplish the unlawful common object. 

The Petitioner was arrested on 11.03.2020 and has been in judicial custody since then. It has been 17 months since the arrest of the Petitioner.

"Bail jurisprudence attempts to bridge the gap between the personal liberty of an accused and ensuring social security remains intact. It is the intricate balance between the securing the personal liberty of an individual and ensuring that this liberty does not lead to an eventual disturbance of public order. It is egregious and against the principles enshrined in our Constitution to allow an accused to remain languishing behind bars during the pendency of the trial. Therefore, the Court, while deciding an application for grant of bail, must traverse this intricate path very carefully and thus take multiple factors into consideration before arriving at a reasoned order whereby it grants or rejects bail".

About FIF 60/2020 (P.S. DayalPur)

FIR 60/2020 was registered on the statement of a Constable stating that on 24th February last year, he was on the law and order arrangement duty with other staff members at Chand Bagh area.

It was stated that around 1 PM protesters carrying danda, lathies, baseball bats, iron rods and stones started gathering at the main Wazirabad road and did not pay heed to the directions of senior officers thereby became violent.

It was further stated that after repeated warnings to the protestors, mild force and gas shells were used to disperse the crowd. According to the Constable, violent protesters started beating people as well as police personnel, due to which he himself sustained injury on his right elbow and hand.

He also stated that the protestors attacked DCP Shahdara, ACP Gokulpuri, and Head Constable Rattan Lal due to which they fell on the road and sustained grievous injuries. All the injured persons were taken to hospital, where it was found that HC Rattan Lal had already died due to injuries sustained and DCP Shahdara was unconscious and had sustained head injuries.

Granting bail the High Court held as follows;

"
It is the Constitutional duty of the Court to ensure that there is no arbitrary deprivation of personal liberty in the face of excess of State power. Bail is the rule and jail is the exception, and Courts must exercise their jurisdiction to uphold the tenets of personal liberty, subject to rightful regulation of the same by validly enacted legislation. The Supreme Court has time and again held that Courts need to be alive to both ends of the spectrum, i.e. the duty of the Courts to ensure proper enforcement of criminal law, and the duty of the Courts to ensure that the law does not become a tool for targeted harassment"

Bail Proceedings Before High Court: A Summary

Contending that there were loopholes and contradictions in Delhi Police's investigation, Senior Advocate Rebecca John appearing on behalf of accused Shadab Ahmed, submitted before the Court that nobody in the country is safe if the Court does not take a judicial note of prosecution's manipulation of witnesses and other crucial facets of investigation.

The primary thrust of Senior Advocate Rebecca John's submissions was that Ahmed was not present at the crime scene or where the violence erupted at the relevant day of the Riots.

To show this, John relied primarily upon three independent witnesses statements relied upon by the Prosecution and submitted that the highest allegation against Ahmed can be that he did not pay heed to what anyone was saying. However, she said that the same cannot be attributed as incitement to commit riots or asking anybody to indulge in violence.

On the other hand, Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir, appearing for accused Mohd. Arif, argued that there were inconsistencies between the video footages and statements of police constable witnesses relied upon by the Prosecution. He submitted that the said statements of the constables were recorded after a period of reasonable delay.

Mir also submitted that the video footage relied upon by SPP Prasad to show presence of Arif at the scene of crime cannot be considered as a convincing piece of evidence to reject him bail in the case. 

He also submitted that the prosecution was trying to create a dent on the judgment delivered by the High Court in case of Mohd. Mansoor v. State of NCT of Delhi wherein bail was granted to the riot accused after opining that his identification before the Trial Court and the High Court was at variance.

Similarly, Advocate Dinesh Tiwari, appearing for accused Furkan, submitted that he was not seen in any video clippings produced by the Police and he was not a part of the alleged unlawful assembly.

So far as the accused Suvaleen was concerned, Tiwari argued that he was not involved in the alleged conspiracy. "There are no witnesses, no CCTV footage against him. Prosecution claims that violence is pre-planned. But there's nothing on record to show that my clients were present in the meeting. They are not a part of any pre-planning," Tiwari pressed.

Coming to the case of Prosecution, it was submitted that due a hostile environment created at the time of riots, people were not willing to come out and give their statements which resulted in a delay in recording of their statements.

ASG Raju submitted:

"There is no universal rule that if a statement was delayed, it cannot be relied upon. People were terrified, there was corona. All these facts have to be seen. Whether statement can be relied or not, it is a matter of trial."

He had also told the Court that the violence did not occur in the spur of the moment but was a result of "meticulous planning". He stated that women and children were kept at the forefront of the mob, disabling police from taking any action against stone-pelting.

Oral Observations Made By Court During Bail Hearing

During the course of hearings, the Court had observed that the mere fact that an accused in the Delhi Riots case was not spotted on the CCTV footage, could not be a sufficient ground to claim innocence in the matter.

The Court added that whether the charge of unlawful assembly under Section 149 IPC should be levelled against the accused is a matter for determination at trial and does not concern the court for Bail.

Similarly, the Court posed a question to Prosecution as to what should be the parameters for grant of bail in a case involving charges under Section 149 (Unlawful Assembly) read with Section 302 (Murder).

Considering the large number of people arrested and the likelihood of varied and, in some cases, lesser punishment to a few, Justice Prasad asked whether the liberty of all the accused under Article 21 can be curtailed till the completion of the trial.

The Court also asked whether, at the time of granting bail, despite the absence of video evidence and having spent over 15 months in detention, should the accused persons be kept in continued detention. ASG SV Raju responded that the video is not sacrosanct in proving the prosecution's case but is only to corroborate the statements of the eye-witnesses.

Case Title: Md. Arif v. State (BA 774/2021) and connected cases

Click Here To Read/ Download Order


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