A two-page doc itemizing names and addresses of at the very least 15 protected witnesses, who’ve given proof in opposition to these arrested for alleged conspiracy in February’s Delhi riots instances, have inadvertently been included within the police’s cost sheet filed in a metropolis court docket final month.
HT has seen the doc however is just not revealing the names of the witnesses to guard their identification. The doc incorporates the names and tackle of protected witness in any other case referred to solely by their pseudonyms equivalent to Alpha, Beta, Hector, Delta, Echo, Mike, and others. Information of the doc was first reported by The Wire on Wednesday.
Pramod Kuswah, the particular cell’s deputy commissioner of police who ready and submitted the cost sheet, didn’t reply to repeated calls and textual content messages from HT. Kuswah is heading the investigation behind the alleged conspiracy. Delhi Police launched a press release on Wednesday night court-related doc containing the identities of the witnesses was “inadvertently included” and that they’re “taking steps for the safety and security of the witnesses”.
Apart from on this two-page doc, these protected witnesses within the 17,000-page cost sheet have been referred to by their pseudonyms of their statements earlier than police and court docket. Police have claimed that these protected witnesses had been insiders/eyewitnesses who noticed a number of the accused individuals equivalent to Pinjra Tod activists Natasha Narwal and Devanagana Kalita, and former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain mobilising the rioters. The accused have denied any wrongdoing. Police had advised the court docket that there was a risk to the witnesses’ life, therefore their identities had been protected.
Although the cost sheet is just not a public assertion, its copies are with the legal professionals of the arrested individuals since September 21. The copies are additionally with journalists, and the contents had been extensively circulated on social media.
The statements had been recorded earlier than completely different judges between March and August, and are admissible proof throughout trial. These witnesses seem to carry the important thing to the police’s narrative that the riots had been deliberate at anti-Citizenship Modification Act (CAA) protest websites. The accused have maintained that there was no conspiracy.
Specialists say the disclosure of the identities of such protected witnesses wouldn’t solely hurt the end result of the instances but in addition pose a risk to their lives.
Former prime of Uttar Pradesh police, Vikram Singh who was the state’s director normal of police between 2007 and 2008, mentioned: “I’d not name this inadvertent error. That is the callousness by one of many officers, who was concerned in making ready the cost sheet. Too many cooks spoil the broth. When there are too many officers as a part of the probe or making ready a doc, the weakest one finally ends up making such a pricey mistake. I hope that Delhi Police have taken satisfactory steps and ensured the safety of these folks as a result of they’re part of an essential investigation. Their safety is police’s accountability now. If something untoward occurs to them, it will likely be a blot on Delhi Police.”
Singh mentioned the police should shortly discover a authorized recourse and get the witnesses examined. “God forbid, even when something occurs to them or they flip hostile, police should shortly discover a approach to make sure that the case is just not affected. Police should repair accountability and discover the officer who fumbled and made this error.”
Advocate Mehmood Pracha, representing Gulfisha Khatoon (one of many arrested individuals) within the riot instances, mentioned this was a “Himalayan blunder” by the police at the same time as he disapproved the statements made by these protected witnesses. “First, let me say that this can be a biased investigation and the witnesses are faux. They’ve misused the usage of protected witnesses, which is not going to cross muster throughout trial. The witnesses shall be cross-examined throughout trial. Secondly, it’s a lapse on their half to disclose the names of their so known as protected witnesses,” he mentioned.
Delhi Police of their assertion mentioned, “Throughout the course of investigation, it was deemed vital that the identities of some witnesses shouldn’t be disclosed within the public area. Nevertheless, a court-related doc containing the identities of a few of these witnesses has been inadvertently included within the copies of the cost sheet offered to the accused individuals as a part of compliance of judicial orders. Because the witnesses are court-protected, their identities shouldn’t be revealed. Media is requested to cooperate on this matter. Steps are being taken to make sure the protection and safety of those witnesses and to deal with all considerations on this regard.”
At the least 53 individuals died whereas 400 others had been injured within the 2020 Delhi riots. The clashes began when teams of individuals — one supporting the Citizenship (Modification) Act and one other opposing it — clashed close to the Jafrabad metro station on the night of February 23. It snowballed into large-scale Hindu-Muslims clashes in components of north east Delhi between February 23 and 27. Delhi police have arrested at the very least 21 individuals for conspiring to orchestrate the riots. The arrested individuals embrace outstanding faces of the anti-CAA protests equivalent to former JNU pupil chief Umar Khalid, pupil activists Sharjeel Imam, Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Safoora Zargar. They’ve all denied any position in inciting the riots.