Delhi police struggle to respond to court’s posers

The Delhi police found itself in a tough position in a court here on Saturday when it was asked to explain the rationale behind imposing prohibitory orders to prevent Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal and his supporters from marching to the Prime Minister’s residence last year.

The court was hearing a discharge application filed by Mr. Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and others opposing the charge sheet that the Delhi police filed against them for violating prohibitory orders imposed under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, rioting, destruction of public property and obstructing public servants on August 26 last during a rally to protest against corruption in the coal block allocation.

The police also could not explain why the charge sheet did not purportedly substantiate — with evidence — some allegations of rioting, destruction of public property, causing injuries to public servants, and instigation of violence levelled against the accused persons.

The police also suffered embarrassment when it claimed that it could not submit videographic evidence as the footage was “damaged.” However, the accused submitted video footage of the August 26 rally to the court and asked why the police could not access the footage shot by several channels.

Mr. Bhushan and defence counsel Somnath Bharti pointed out that Section 144 Cr.PC can be imposed only in an emergency situation when there was a reasonable apprehension of breach of peace.

Metropolitan Magistrate Jay Thareja asked the Delhi police: “What was the emergency? Tell me what information you [police] had about threat to law and order that made you impose Section 144 of the Cr.PC?”

Though the prosecutor said the Assistant Commissioner of Police who imposed Section 144 Cr.PC would depose and explain why it was done, the court was not satisfied. “For every controversial question, you are saying that the police officers will come [to court] and explain everything. Do you want me to put them [accused] to trial and then you [police] will go ahead and improve your investigation,” Mr. Thareja asked.

Mr. Bharti also pointed out to the court that two police officers whose medical reports indicated that they suffered injuries during the march had recorded in their statements that they saw their colleagues being pushed and shoved, but had not stated anything about the injuries to their own person. “Why are the statements of those who got wounded not been included in the charge sheet,” he asked.

Defence counsel also pointed to the mechanical inspection reports of DTC buses which said that window rods were broken but the window glass on all sides were intact. “Were the rods in a broken condition much before August 26 itself? Have you caught anyone breaking the rods?” The question from the Magistrate did not evoke any response from the police.

While seeking a detailed oral or written reply from the Delhi police on the discharge application moved by the accused, the Magistrate also asked Mr. Bhushan to assist him by supplying judicial precedents that allowed a magisterial court to order further investigation citing insufficient evidence on record.

The matter is next listed for hearing on March 7.

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