The Delhi High Court today told the Delhi police that its order dated July 8 — pointing to resentment among Hindus over the arrest of Hindu youth — is “mischievous” and questioned the police over its necessity.
Special commissioner of police (crime) Praveer Ranjan told the court that such orders are regularly issued upon inputs from “other agencies”. The court then directed the Delhi police to submit five such orders in riot-related cases to the court within two days and set the next hearing on August 7.
In an order dated July 8, Ranjan had cited “intelligence inputs” to alert probe teams investigating the Delhi riots to “a degree of resentment among the Hindu community” in Khajuri Khas and Chand Bagh in Northeast Delhi over “the arrests of some Hindu youth” in connection with the communal carnage in the capital this February. The carnage left 52 dead, including 40 Muslims.
The order dated July 8.
In the order, Ranjan had asked supervisory officers to “guide the IOs [Investigative Officers] suitably”, adding that officers should practice “due care and precaution” while “arresting any person” and discuss evidence with the special public prosecutors assigned to the Delhi police.
The order also stated that the “resentment among Hindu community” is additionally caused by “police inaction” against two Muslim men from Chand Bagh who were “alleged to have been involved in mobilising members of Muslim community during Delhi riots and anti-CAA protests”.
‘What was the necessity?’
On Friday, the court was hearing the petition filed by Sahil Parvez and Mohammad Saeed Salman, both of whose parents were killed in the riots. The petitioners sought to quash the July 8 order.
When Amit Mahajan, counsel for the Delhi police, began with the claim that the petition is “mischievous”, Justice Suresh Kumar Kait cut him off.
“This letter is also mischievous. Why was this kind of a letter issued?” he said. “He [Special CP Ranjan] is a senior IPS officer. He’s supposed to know what to issue and what not to issue.”
Mahajan insisted that the letter should be read “very carefully”. Justice Kait interjected: “Where is the necessity? Lot of people will say so many things...If there is a fight between communities, do they issue such types of letters?”
“Not at all. Not at all,” said Mahajan.
The counsel then explained the input from the Hindu community in Chand Bagh and Khajuri Khas. “What they want is: don’t take action against us, and take action against the other community,” he claimed.
Mahajan pointed to the second paragraph asking supervising officers should take “due care and precaution” while “arresting any persons” to argue that the order was not just confined to just one community.
“This is being mischievously read and interpreted,” he argued.
Kait stuck to his original question. “As per this [the order], the police have made wrong arrests, because of which there was resentment in the community. What actions have you taken thereafter if this was the position? And if this was not the case, then what was the necessity to write this?”
He added, “My question is: He [Ranjan] is a senior officer. Where was the question to issue [the order] and under what provisions is he giving the directive?”
When Mahajan reiterated that the Special CP was only asking officers to take “due care and precautions”, Kait said that such decisions lie with the officer investigating the case. “The officer at the spot will see to it whether to arrest or not to arrest. Or will he ask his senior, ‘Sir, he’s pushing me, should I push him back? He’s stone-pelting, should I pelt back?’ The Special CP is not going to teach them what to do. They know what to do.”
Kait then addressed Special CP Ranjan. “Mr Ranjan, what was the occasion to issue [the order]?”
Ranjan said the order was prompted after the police had made arrests in riot-related cases, and a “delegation made a representation” and the “input” came to “one of the agencies”.
Kait said, “When complaints come to you, in every complaint you pass orders? You only mark the complaint to the concerned SHO and say please look into this. This is what you’re doing? This is the practice?”
Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) Praveer Ranjan | Courtesy: Government of Puducherry
Ranjan replied, “My lord, my only humble submission is, whenever such kind of representation or input comes, we always sensitise our officers that these are the things, and you should exercise due care and precaution.”
Kait said, “You produce just five such orders, passed earlier, when a complaint was received that so-and-so officers were not taking proper care, or so-and-so culprits were not booked. Did you give such orders in the past?”
When Ranjan mumbled something about the crime branch system, Justice Kait cut him off and said that he should produce five such orders issued before July 8. Mahajan then asked the court if these orders could be produced in sealed covers, which Kait granted.
‘This is an absolutely illegal direction’
Advocate Mehmood Pracha, counsel for the petitioners, argued that the Delhi police order is “patently illegal” and violates “basic principles of criminal law, but also frustrates the process of the criminal justice system”.
The petitioners had annexed an Indian Express report from July 15, which first on the order, in the petition.
Pracha has also contended that Ranjan’s suggestions that officers consult special public prosecutors about the arrests is illegal because “law envisages a prosecution agency that is independent from the investigating agency”.
During the hearing, Pracha argued that the operative part of the order (its second paragraph) arises from its context, the first paragraph, which he said “totally talks about one community” and takes charge for them, while being against two members of another community.
“Riots are not between two communities. That is a subtle message that they [the police] are trying to send,” Pracha told the court. “It cannot be so. Riots are between groups of people belonging to the local area, or political or social interest groups of that area.”
Further, the advocate said that the July 8 order is against the law, as there are no provisions in the law under which it can be issued, specifically the Criminal Procedure Code, The Police Act (1861) and the Delhi Police Act (1978).
“My primary challenge is that it is against the principles of law for arrest, which are only contained in Section 41 of the Criminal Procedure Code, that rests solely with the investigating officer. No senior officer can put the words in the mouth of the IO, and not in an omnibus manner like this. This is an absolutely illegal direction,” Pracha said.
He added that his worst fear is that the order had been given orally to the officers much before it was put into writing.
The next hearing
The Delhi High Court has set the next hearing for the matter for August 7. To establish whether such orders are a practice, Special CP Praveer Ranjan has been directed by the court to submit five similar orders based on complaints or representations prior to July 8 in riot-related cases. Ranjan has to make the submission within two days in a sealed cover.
“Such type of letters is not known under the Criminal Procedure Code to instruct the officers. However, it is not a dispute that senior officers are duty-bound to guide officers time and again as per the situation going on at the particular time,” the court observed.
In three ground reports on the murder of Maruf Ali and Shahid Alam, Newslaundry has reported that the Delhi police is facing allegations of fabrication and distortion of statements by eyewitnesses to arrest Muslim men, whom the police accuses of murder. Read all three reports, in English and Hindi, .
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