A Delhi court framed charges of rioting and arson against nine accused in a Northeast Delhi riots case, saying that it would be a “miscarriage of justice” to throw out the prosecution’s case merely because statements of public witnesses were recorded after a delay.
Additional Sessions Judge Virender Bhat, in his order dated October 11, said the delay in recording statements of the witnesses by police was not deliberate or contumacious and was occasioned on account of the situation which prevailed in the Northeast area during and after the alleged rioting.
The court said that “it would be a miscarriage of justice to disbelieve the statements of these witnesses at this very stage and throw out the prosecution case merely for the reason that their statements were recorded after about one month of the incident”.
It added, “In the opinion of this court, the delay in recording of statements of witnesses does not appear to be deliberate or contumacious. It appears to have occasioned on account of the situation which prevailed in the area during and after the incident of rioting and, therefore, the accused cannot claim discharge in this case merely on this score.”
During the course of the hearing, Delhi Police apprised the court that the nine accused created disharmony in society by threatening and terrorising the public at large and that their action was not only anti-national but also a challenge to the Rule of Law in Delhi.
The defence counsel argued that CCTV video footage which forms part of the chargesheet in the case was of February 24, whereas the incident admittedly took place on February 25, 2020. They argued that there was no CCTV video footage on record which pertains to the date February 25.
However, the prosecution argued that they did not rely on the CCTV video footage and that their case is based on other evidence on record, including the ocular version of the witnesses.
The nine accused were allegedly part of the unlawful assembly and caused damage, looted properties worth crores of rupees, burnt a large number of houses, shops, schools, and vehicles on February 25, 2020, as per police. It relied on the statements of four public witnesses.
After considering the entire material on record, the judge said it is prima facie evident that the charges under Sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with a deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 380 (theft), 427 (mischief), 436 (arson), 452 (house-trespass) of the Indian Penal Code are liable to be framed against all the accused.