Delhi riots: HC directs trial court to send unredacted statements of witnesses in sealed cover

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New Delhi, Apr 7 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Wednesday directed a trial court to place before it the unredacted statements of protected witnesses in a sealed cover for a case related to larger conspiracy in the northeast Delhi riots last year in which Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha is facing prosecution.

A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup Jairam Bhambhani said the statements be placed before April 14, the next date of hearing.

“The trial court is directed to forward the original unredacted statements of protected witnesses in a sealed cover to this court on or before the next date of hearing, that is, April 14,” the bench said.

With this direction, it allowed and disposed of an application by Delhi Police seeking to call for unredacted statements of protected witnesses in a sealed cover from the trial court.

Names and personal details of protected witnesses are redacted in their statements. The high court, which had on March 18 reserved its order on Tanha’s plea seeking bail in the case, had asked the police to file written submissions, unredacted copies of witnesses statements and other relevant documents.

When the court asked how is it possible that the prosecution does not have copies of statements of its witnesses, Special Public Prosecutor Rajat Nair, representing the police, said these are protected witnesses and the unredacted copies are with the trial court only.

He said when the investigating officer had applied for protection of witnesses, the statements were signed and sealed by the trial court judge and redacted copies were given to the IO.

Tanha was arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the case in May last year for allegedly being part of a “premeditated conspiracy” in the riots.

Tanha has challenged a trial court’s October 26, 2020 order by which his bail application was dismissed on the ground that he allegedly played an active role in the entire conspiracy and that there were reasonable grounds for believing that the allegations against were prima facie true.

In the high court, the bail plea was opposed by the Delhi Police on the contention that the riots were premeditated and a conspiracy was hatched of which Tanha was a part.

The counsel for police had said the accused should not be granted bail as there were statements of protected witnesses in the case which clearly showed the alleged role of Tanha in the conspiracy.

Tanha’s counsel had submitted that they have challenged the refusal to grant him bail and added that the accused shall be granted the relief as he has been in custody since May 2020 and even the charge sheet has been filed.

The trial court, in its order of October 26 order last, had said that since there were reasonable grounds for believing that the accusations against Tanha were prima facie true, hence, the embargo created by Section 43D of UAPA applied for grant of bail to the accused and the bail application was dismissed.

Under section 43 D of UAPA, an accused should not be released on bail or on his own bond if the court was of the opinion that the accusation against such person was prima facie true.

Tanha’s counsel had claimed before the trial court that he was not present in Delhi during the riots and did not visit any of the protest sites where rioting and violence occurred.

The counsel had further contended that there was no physical evidence connecting Tanha to the riots and no allegations with respect to any funds being received by him for terrorist activities.

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