Court acquits 2 AAP leaders for defying public servant’s order regarding maintaining Covid protocol

 A court here has acquitted the Patel Nagar MLA and an MCD councillor of the charge of defying orders promulgated by a public servant regarding the maintenance of COVID-19 protocols, saying there were innumerable lapses in the investigation.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vidhi Gupta Anand was hearing a case against two Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders — MLA Raaj Kumar Anand and councillor Ankush Narang — who were accused of participating in a protest near the residence of Delhi BJP chief Aadesh Gupta in West Patel Nagar without prior permission and without maintaining social distancing or wearing masks on February 26 last year.

At the time of the alleged protest, an order issued by the assistant commissioner of police, Patel Nagar was in force. The order said though social restrictions were lifted on account of a declining number of Covid cases, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, as mandated in the National Directives for COVID Management, would continue, the prosecution said.

“There are innumerable lapses in the investigation conducted by the investigating officer (IO) — not conducting inquiries from public witnesses, no preparation of site plan, not recording statements of the station house officer or the assistant commissioner of police and other eyewitnesses, to mention a few,” the court said.

It said the most glaring omission was not bringing the video of the incident on record, despite it being available with the IO.

“Mere statement of the IO that he has changed his mobile phone and therefore, does not remember receiving the video of the incident appears to be nothing more than a flimsy excuse and it is a separate question as to why the IO did not produce the most clinching piece of evidence in the court despite having received it,” the court said.

The reason behind the conduct could be ignorance of legal procedures or a casual approach towards the investigation or some other extraneous factors. But his conduct had damaged the prosecution’s case, so much so that it was “beyond repairs”, the court added.

It said the presence of the accused on the spot was not proven, nor was there any evidence of publication or communication regarding the ACP’s order.

Noting several contradictions in the testimonies of three public witnesses, the court said there was a question on their “truthfulness”.

“There is no specific number of the persons who participated in the protest march. While one witness says it would be around 50-60 persons, the other says that it would be around 100-150 persons and despite that, only two persons have been made accused in this matter,” the court said.

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It said the time of the protest remained unclear as the witnesses gave different answers and that no police witnesses were examined apart from a constable.

“It is held that the prosecution has failed to discharge its burden of proving the guilt of the accused persons. Hence, both the accused persons are held not guilty and acquitted for the offence under IPC sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 34 (common intention),” the court said.

The Patel Nagar police station had registered an FIR against the duo.

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