Delhi Riots Probe: Police Hiding Key Facts, Says RTI Activist

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Thick smoke billowed in the air and mobs roamed unchecked through the streets, pelting stones, vandalising shops and threatening locals, as fresh violence broke out in northeast Delhi on February 26. — AP

The RTI application had 34 questions but the Delhi police answered only six of them like 754 FIRs registered and 1,142 people arrested.

Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India

The Delhi police probing the February riots in the north-eastern parts of the capital are withholding vital information like the details of FIRs and remand applications, identity of the accused in FIRs, their bail details, number and details of the charge sheets filed etc., an RTI activist has complained.

Tamil Nadu-based human rights lawyer A. Mohamed Yusuff, who is associated with the Popular Front of India, a rights organisation, filed a Right-To-Information Application (RTI) with the Delhi police to ascertain the claims of its lopsided role and the communal nature of the violence that shook the capital in the last week of February, claiming 53 lives, most of them Muslims.

The application had 34 questions but the Delhi police answered only six of them–information only about the number of cases registered and the number of arrests made.

Lawyer and activist A. Mohamed Yusuff

According to the reply–a copy of which is with Clarion India — given by the Additional Commissioner of Police who is also the Public Information Officer of the Delhi police, the cops have registered 754 FIRs in connection with the riots. Of these, 61 FIRs have been transferred to the crime branch for investigation. As on July 22, the date of reply, the police have arrested 1142 people.

But the police have not revealed the count of Muslims and Hindus. One reason for moving the RTI application, Yusuff says, was to know the number of Muslims and Hindus named in FIRs. “By that, we would have come to know the laws invoked against Muslims and Hindus.”

Moreover, the reply said there were 693 cases under investigation but only 171 cases had been put in the court so far.

The police have withheld the information on the identity of the accused or the nature of the crimes under the pretext that such information has the potential to disturb law and order. To most of the questions, the reply said, “invoking section 8 (1) (g, j, h) of RTI Act 2005, the requisite details cannot be provided …being sensitive information and related to law and order.”

For instance, the query for names and dates of arrest of the accused has been responded invoking the above- mentioned provision of the law.

However, according to Yusuff, the police cannot withhold the details in the FIR. Citing a Supreme Court judgment on guidelines, he says, “The FIR is a public document and should be uploaded on a police website.”He adds that he information he had sought does not come under the exempted category under RTI Act.

According to the apex court guidelines, the copies of the FIR, unless the offence is sensitive in nature, like sexual offence or terrorism, should be uploaded on the police website. However, none of the 754 FIRs has been uploaded on the Delhi police website, Yusuff says.

He alleges that the denial of access to FIRs is against the Supreme Court guidelines.

The Delhi police have been under fire from media and activists who have accused the uniformed men of being biased against Muslims.

A recent scathing report by the Delhi Minority Commission, a government body, accused the police of failure to protect the lives of anti-CAA protesters during the Delhi riots.

There are also allegations that the police were succumbing to the pressure of the Modi government to not act against BJP leaders like Kapil Mishra who are accused of fanning the violence against Muslims.

Civil society activists have said that Delhi police were falsely blaming and arresting peaceful anti-CAA activists and ordinary Muslims, many of them under the draconian UAPA, while they were shielding the real culprits.

 “In cases of Delhi riots, arbitrary arrests are going on. It is the duty of the police to make all the FIRs public.” Yusuff also wanted to know about the remand applications police have given to the duty magistrates and reasons stated in the application for remand. He mentions of reports that the members of the right-wing parties were arrested on minor charges and released on bail in the police station itself but Muslims were produced before the magistrate and remanded.

Yusuff says that by hiding the key information, the claims of police neutrality and partiality had become a “farce”. He asserts, “Police had to answer the important questions but they did not.”

Yusuff is now working to file the appeal for answers to the questions left unanswered.

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