Del HC | Delhi Police directed to refrain from issuing any further communication naming any accused or any witness till charges are framed and trial is commenced in Jafrabad riots case

Delhi High Court: While addressing the issue that whether the Delhi Police can be faulted for disclosing the certain information and allegations pertaining to the petitioner regarding her alleged involvement in hatching a conspiracy to cause riots near Jafrabad Metro Station, in their press release; the Bench of Vibhu Bakhru, J., directed the Delhi Police to refrain from issuing any further communication naming any accused or any witness till the charges are framed and the trial is commenced.

The petitioner is currently enrolled as a student in M. Phil-Ph.D Program with the Department of Women’s Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. As per the petitioner, she has been a strong critic of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and has participated in peaceful protests for seeking repeal of the CAA and a stop to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process. The petitioner via her counsel Adit S. Pujari, contends that the Delhi Police circulated a “Brief Note” dated 02-06-2020 to various media agencies which disclosed names of two girls including the petitioner and alleged that they belong to ‘Pinjra Tod’ Group and were actively involved in hatching a conspiracy to cause riots near Jafrabad Metro Station. The petitioner submitted that the impugned Note was an attempt to prejudice her Right to Free and Fair Trial and also to weaken the presumption of her innocence. Per contra, Additional Solicitor General, Aman Lekhi contended that the Delhi Police had not issued the impugned Note with the intention of causing any prejudice to the petitioner or with a view to attack her reputation but for the sole purpose to accurately portray the case, which was necessary in view of the media campaign carried out by members of the ‘Pinjra Tod’ Group to sway the public opinion against the actions of the Delhi Police.

Perusing the rival contentions, the Court observed that the respondent’s contention that the circulation of the impugned Note was a necessity in the light of the negative campaigning conducted against the Delhi Police, is not a persuasive argument. However, the Court also observed that the impugned Note does not violate the petitioner’s Fundamental Rights under Art. 21 of the Constitution. The Court further noted that the reasons prompting the respondent to issue the impugned note are not subject to judicial review provided they are bonafide and do not violate the petitioner’s right. However considering that communal riots are sensitive cases, where even the FIRs are also not publicly disclosed, therefore the Court restrained the Delhi Police to release any further communication in this matter.[Devangana Kalita v. Delhi Police, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 867 , decided on 27-07-2020]

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