Delhi riots: Court declines time to police for funds sanction to supply chargesheet to accused

·4-min read

New Delhi, Nov 2 (PTI) A court here has refused to grant time to the police to obtain funds' sanction to provide to the accused hard copies of the voluminous chargesheet filed in a case related to the north east Delhi riots in February, saying they were supposed to act promptly.

The court had on October 9 directed the police to file fresh copies of the chargesheet, running over 17,000 pages, after it was informed that they had 'inadvertently' put a document containing the details of some protected witnesses in the copies supplied to the accused booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the case.

Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat was informed by the investigating officer (IO) on October 21 that he had submitted 16 new pen drives containing the redacted version of the chargesheet and accompanying documents following the earlier order.

The court directed that the accused and their counsel be provided both hard and soft copies of the fresh chargesheet.

To this, the IO submitted that the sanction for funds for providing hard copies to every accused was to be obtained from the Delhi government and sought 15 days' time.

The court, in its order passed on October 21, said it was not “impressed” by his submissions.

“Once the chargesheet has been filed by the investigating agency, as voluminous as it is, then with some alacrity, a copy of it has to be provided in hard copy to every accused which was also the direction of the court. They may require sanction of funds for the purpose, however, they were supposed to act promptly,' the court said.

“In these circumstances, the court directs the investigating agency shall provide the physical copy of the chargesheet and the accompanying documents to every accused by next date, without fail,” it said.

The court has put up the matter for further hearing on November 3.

The counsels for the accused in the case also returned to the court previous copies of the chargesheet, as per its earlier order.

The court directed its staff to put the pen drives received from the accused in a sealed cover along with the case file.

Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad, appearing for the police, said the accused have been given copies of the chargesheet in pen drives which was sufficient compliance of the law.

To this, the court said though it may be desirable to have soft copies of the chargesheet, the law still mandated that a hard copy was to be made available to the accused.

“There is a proviso that if any document is voluminous, then instead of furnishing a copy thereof, the court can direct that he be allowed to inspect it either personally or through pleader in court. This proviso indicates that hard copy has to be supplied as this proviso would not apply to soft copy. Moreover, not every accused would be comfortable with a soft copy and the purpose of supply of copy is to provide the accused with necessary material set against him.

“Even though, it may be desirable to have soft copies of the chargesheet, the law still mandates that a hard copy is to be made available to the accused… Thus, the investigating agency is duty bound to supply hard copy of the charge sheet with accompanying documents to the accused. The soft copy is a copy made available for the benefit of the accused/counsel,” the court said.

The police had earlier informed the court that it had come to their knowledge that various persons with vested interest had reached out to at least three protected witnesses in relation to the case.

The court had said there was a mistake on the part of the Investigating Officer and directed the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, which is investigating the case, to ensure comprehensive safety and security to all the protected witnesses.

It had directed the accused or any other person or authority not to divulge, publish, disclose, disseminate or circulate the identity of the protected witnesses and not to approach them directly or indirectly.

It had directed the police to file fresh copies of the chargesheet after redacting the details of the protected witnesses and supply it to the 15 people charge-sheeted in the case and their counsel.

The application moved by Prasad had stated that the act was neither intentional nor deliberate.

The accused include Pinjra Tod members and JNU students Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha, Gulfisha Khatoon, former Congress Councillor Ishrat Jahan, Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider, Shafa-Ur-Rehman, suspended AAP Councillor Tahir Hussain, activist Khalid Saifi, Shadab Ahmed, Tasleem Ahmed, Salim Malik, Mohd Salim Khan and Athar Khan.

They have been charge-sheeted for allegedly being part of a larger conspiracy in the riots.

JNU student Sharjeel Imam and former JNU student leader Umar Khalid have also been arrested under the anti-terror law in the case but not charge-sheeted yet.

Communal violence had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after clashes between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control, leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured. PTI URD RDM RDM