Delhi Riots: HC Directs Recording of ‘Eyewitness’ Statement in National Anthem Case

The Delhi High Court on Monday directed the recording of the statement of a youth who claimed to be an eyewitness to a 23-year-old man being forced to sing the national anthem and beaten up leading to his death during the 2020 northeast Delhi riots.

Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani, while hearing a petition seeking a court-monitored probe into the death, asked that the statement of “eyewitness” Mohd Wasim be recorded by the magistrate concerned in a week.

Counsel for Wasim, advocate Mehmood Pracha, sought to intervene in the proceedings and claimed he was the minor who was also beaten along with the deceased by policemen and was thus an eyewitness to the incident as well as the events that transpired later at the police station.

The counsel for the Delhi Police Amit Prasad said Wasim has not cooperated in getting his statement recorded despite being asked to do so.

“Let the applicant be produced before the magistrate concerned for recording his statement under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Let it be recorded in one week and a copy of the same be placed on record,” the court ordered.

The high court was hearing a petition by Kismatun, the mother of deceased Faizan, who has sought a court-monitored Special Investigation Team probe into the death of her son. Faizan, along with four other Muslim men, was seen in a video that had surfaced on social media after the incident.

In the video, Faizan was purportedly seen being beaten up by policemen while being forced to sing the national anthem and Vande Mataram’.

The woman has claimed that police illegally detained her son and denied him critical health care due to which he succumbed to injuries on February 26, 2020 after being released.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for the petitioner, played the video for the court and said there was a “targeted hate crime” against the deceased and a court-monitored investigation was required to rupture the “brotherhood of khaki” and fix accountability on erring officials.

“There are two sets of police officers who are responsible for the custodial death of Faizan,” argued Grover as she alleged that the deceased was first assaulted by a group of police personnel as seen in the video footage and later, illegally detained, further assaulted and denied medical care at the police station.

She also emphasised that admittedly, the deceased was not involved in rioting and the post-mortem report showed an increase in the number of injuries sustained by him during the course of his detention at the police station. The police officials have “suppressed” and “fudged” the record in the matter, Grover added.

“Three years have passed. This (ongoing) investigation inspires no confidence..I do not know an accused who is not in khaki and will not be arrested (under similar circumstances) and taken for custodial interrogation. I am seeking fair investigation,” she submitted.

As the court observed that a status report filed by the police in a sealed cover in the matter “itself contains information that is damning”, Grover remarked, “everything is in their knowing and yet no action takes place.”

Special public prosecutor Amit Prasad said the matter was not adversarial.

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Earlier, the city police told the court that it has preserved its original record, such as daily diaries, arrest memos and duty roster, in connection with the death, and the investigation in the matter was ongoing. The documents are in safe custody and can be produced before the court if asked, it added.

In March last year, police had told the high court that the case involved “technical evidence” and that the investigation has “zeroed down a head constable making the video” and not assaulting the victim and that no stone was being left unturned in the probe.

The court was then informed that the agency would take eight more weeks to complete the probe.

Grover has earlier argued that no arrest was made in the case and the police has made a false statement with respect to the status of CCTVs at the police station concerned and that the investigating agency was not probing the “second scene of crime” which is the police station.

She has said in spite of an expert examiner identifying two police officials featured in the video, no custodial interrogation was carried out by the agency.

Communal clashes had broken out in North East Delhi on February 24, 2020, after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 700 injured.

The matter would be heard next on May 30.

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