Del HC | ‘Not here to send any messages but to dispense justice’: HC while allowing bail to the man accused in Delhi riots

Delhi High Court: Anup Jairam Bhambhani, J., while addressing a bail application of a person alleged to have been involved in burning the shop during the Delhi Riots, stated that:

“..ordinarily this court would not have entered upon any discussion on the evidence at the stage of considering bail, however here is a case where a purported unlawful assembly of some 250-300 persons is alleged to have committed offences; of which the police have picked-up only two.”

What transpired the bail application?

Present bail application has been filed by a person who has been taken into custody under Sections 147, 148, 149, 427 and 436 of Penal Code, 1860, though he sought bail on the grounds that neither has he been named in the FIR nor is there any allegation in the FIR nor any other material collected during investigation which would have identified him as one of the perpetrators in the offences alleged.

Supplementary Statement of Complainant

The first statement of the complainant has not been filed on record. Though APP submitted that the same has been extracted in-extenso in the FIR itself.

Senior Counsel, Rebecca John — for the applicant

Submissions:

  • Complainant’s supplementary statement on which the State sought to rely did not in any manner identify or connect the applicant to the alleged offences.
  • No test identification parade was conducted of the applicant to get the complainant to identify him
  • Applicant is a resides 15-minutes away from the complainant’s shop; and therefore the applicant’s presence in the vicinity of the shop cannot be assumed, unless there is evidence to that effect, which there isn’t.

Another point that is to be taken note of is that the co-accused with the applicant has already been admitted to bail by Additional Sessions Judge.

APP, Hirein Sharma for the State — Opposing Bail

While opposing the bail he submitted that applicant had been identified by complainant; Constable Vikas and the CCTV footage of Rajdhani School also identifies the applicant — these hold a sufficient basis to hold him in judicial custody. Overall there were around 250 to 300 rioters in the area at the relevant time.

Complainant’s supplementary statement

Complainant only submitted that in the video and photos shown to him in the police officer’s cellphone, he had identified 2 persons who set fire to his shop and, if confronted, he will be able to identify other persons who were present.

According to the State’s status report dated 23rd may, 2020, no footage of the incident is available and the cameras installed by PWD in various parts of the area are still awaited.

Ct. Vikas in his statement submitted two names including the applicant’s name.

It is extremely important to note however, that in the complainant’s statement upon which the FIR was recorded, the complainant says that when the rioters vandalised his shop, he tele- phoned the police but the police telephones were going busy ; and that therefore he ran away to save his life. In the teeth of this statement of the complainant that there was no police help on hand, Ct. Vikas claims that he was present at the scene of the offence and in- ter-alia saw the applicant commit the offences.

Now another point with regard to CCTV footage that is to be noted is that the Rajdhani School and applicant’s shop are at a 400 meters distance with a 5 minute walk but on 2 different sides of a turn in the road. Therefore, it appears incredible that camera/s installed in the school would be able to ‘see’ the complainant’s shop.

Additional Status report of the State says that:

“…. Granting of bail at this early stage may send an ad- verse message in the society and such crimes should not be allowed to happen in the national capital. ….”.

(Emphasis supplied)

Decision of the Bench

“Prison is primarily for punishing convicts; not fo detaining undertrials in order to send any ‘message’ to society.”

Further the Court observed that remit of the Court is to dispense justice in accordance with law, not to send messages to society.

It is this sentiment, whereby the State demands that undertrials be kept in prison inordinately without any purpose, that leads to overcrowding of jails ; and leaves undertrials with the inevitable impression that they are being punished even before trial and therefore being treated unfairly by the system.

In regard to the present matter, Court cannot but notice that the offences under Sections 147/148/149 IPC arise in the context of an ‘unlawful assembly’, which Section 141 IPC defines as an assembly of 5 or more persons acting with unlawful purposes as defined in that provision ; while in the present case only 2 persons appear to have been charged.

On perusal of the above, Court admits the applicant to regular bail on following conditions:

  • Rs 50,000 Personal Bond; 2 sureties of the like amount from blood-relatives
  • Cannot leave NCR without Court’s permission
  • Shall present himself on every alternate Wednesday between 11 am and 11.30 am before the investigation officer.
  • Passport to be surrendered
  • applicant shall not contact nor visit nor threaten nor offer any inducement to the first informant/complainant or any of the prosecution witnesses. The applicant shall not tamper with evidence.

Court added to its observation that,

In this peculiar circumstance, this court was compelled to sift the evidence only prima-facie and limited to cursorily assessing how the police have identified the applicant from that large assembly of persons.

In view of the above discussion, bail application is allowed. [Firoz Khan v. State (NCT of Delhi), Bail Application No. 945 of 2020, decided on 29-05-2020]

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