Delhi riots: HC pulls up police for leakage of charge sheet to media before cognisance

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Friday pulled up the Delhi Police for leakage of supplementary charge sheet filed in case related to communal violence in northeast Delhi last year to the media even before cognisance was taken by the concerned court, saying an offence is made out of the incident.

Justice Mukta Gupta asked the Delhi Police Commissioner to file an affidavit fixing responsibility on the person instrumental in leaking the information to the media.

It is a proved allegation (of leakage) once it comes in media. It no more remains an allegation now. You have to ascertain who has done it, the court told the counsel for the police.

Advocate Amit Mahajan, representing the Delhi Police, maintained that the contents of the supplementary charge sheet were not leaked to media by police.

He said the responsibility cannot be fixed on police as they have not leaked it.

To this, the high court said it was a property in the hands of a police officer and if your officer has leaked it, it’s abuse of power, if for sanction this was entrusted to someone else it’s criminal breach of trust and if the media has taken it away then it’s a theft. So in any case, an offence is made out.

The court was hearing a plea by JMI student Asif Iqbal Tanha alleging misconduct by police officials in leaking his disclosure statement, recorded by the probe agency during the investigation, to the media.

Advocate Siddharth Aggarwal, representing Tanha, contended that recently the police has filed a supplementary charge sheet in the criminal case before the trial court and portions of the documents were with the media the very next day without providing copies to the accused.

He said the trial court was yet to take cognisance of the supplementary charge sheet and then the trial court had to pass an order in which media was pulled up for reporting exact contents of the charge sheet even before cognisance.

He sought time to file an additional affidavit in this regard.

The high court said that the earlier order was clear that there would not be any media briefing till charges are framed.

You file an additional affidavit, we will see what action has to be taken. We will see if they can do indirectly what they can’t do directly, the judge said, adding that “don’t do the inquiry as done by you earlier, you will have to answer the contentions of petitioner’s counsel”.

The high court listed the matter for further hearing on March 25.

In pursuance to the court’s earlier order, Special Commissioner of Police (Vigilance) Sundari Nanda was also present in the hearing.

The high court had earlier expressed dissatisfaction over the police’s vigilance inquiry report, conducted on the allegation of leaking to media confessional statement of Tanha, who was arrested in the case.

The court is yet to hear submissions of counsel for Delhi Police and media house, Zee News Media Corporation Ltd, represented through advocate Vijay Aggarwal.

Tanha’s counsel submitted that apart from examining the question as to the steps taken by the police regarding the leak of documents, a cognisable offence has also been committed and it is necessary to take proper action.

He had contended that the action of the media houses — Zee News Media Corporation Ltd and OpIndia — in placing such documents in the media violated the programme code and sought time to file a written statement in this regard.

The high court had earlier questioned Zee News over broadcast of the alleged confession statement of Tanha in the riots case, saying such documents cannot be taken out and published.

It had directed the media house to file an affidavit disclosing the name of the source from whom the concerned journalist got the documents.

Earlier, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (special cell) in an affidavit had said that Delhi Police was also aggrieved by the news report in which the alleged confessional statement of Tanha was leaked out and that none of its officials involved in the investigation of the case leaked out the information to the media.

The plea has also sought direction to the media houses to take down the sensitive/confidential information leaked to them by the officials of Delhi Police.

Tanha, in his petition, said he was aggrieved by various publications reporting that he has confessed to orchestrating the Delhi riots and alleged that he was coerced to sign certain papers in the effective custody of police.

Tanha, who was arrested in May 2020, is currently lodged in judicial custody in the Delhi riots case.

Tanha, a third-year student of BA in Persian language, was earlier arrested in connection with the violence in the Jamia area during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in December 2019.

The police had said that Tanha, a resident of Abul Fazal Enclave in Shaheen Bagh, was a member of the Students Islamic Organization and was part of the Jamia Coordination Committee which spearheaded protests against the new citizenship law.

On December 15, 2019, protesters had turned violent, torching four public buses and two police vehicles and pelting stones at the police and civilians, near JMI. At least 40 people including students, policemen and fire fighters were injured in the incident.

Communal clashes had broken out in northeast 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 200 injured.

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