Delhi HC criticises police for 'unwarranted' allegations in affidavit on Pinjra Tod's petition

The Delhi Police had said that Devangana Kalita, one of the founders of the women students collective, started a ‘media trial’ to gain sympathy.

Press Trust of India July 09, 2020 16:47:13 IST
Delhi HC criticises police for 'unwarranted' allegations in affidavit on Pinjra Tod's petition

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Thursday termed as "unwarranted" the allegations in the police affidavit filed in response to a plea by a Pinjra Tod group woman member, arrested in relation to communal violence here during anti-CAA protests, accusing the agency of leaking certain claimed evidence against her to the media.

"The allegations in the affidavit were unwarranted in view of the limited scope of the petition," Justice Vibhu Bakhru said.

The court said the police cannot say that since the petitioner wanted a media trial therefore it is putting out information in the media.

"You cannot support a media trial. That cannot be the approach of the police. There has to be some restraint that they (police) have to follow. Your affidavit goes way beyond..," the judge said.

The court said that multiple allegations have been made in the affidavit which go beyond the scope of the petition and suggested that it be withdrawn.

It said that in the instant matter it was only going to examine under what circumstances the police can issue official communiques or press notes about a case and in what manner.

The court said it was not going to prohibit police from issuing any official communiques in any case.

However, if the affidavit remains on record, without any officer taking responsibility for the allegations made therein, it will comment upon its contents, the court said.

"We are not sure the facts (in the affidavit) have any basis. Some of the allegations have been made irresponsibly," the court said.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aman Lekhi, appearing for the police, said the statements in the affidavit were made in response to the allegations in the petition that there has been a witch hunt against the petitioner - JNU student Devangana Kalita.

The court said every accused disputes the case against him/her and makes allegations that the investigation and prosecution was biased.

"However, this is not the kind of affidavit expected from the police," the court said.

Subsequently, ASG Lekhi said he will not rely upon the affidavit and will confine his arguments to the point of law.

The court, thereafter, listed the matter for hearing on 15 July.

In the affidavit, Delhi Police said Kalita herself started a ‘media trial’ to gain sympathy and generate public opinion in her favour.

The affidavit was filed in response her plea alleging that the probe agency was selectively leaking, to the media, certain information regarding allegations against her and the evidence allegedly collected against her.

The high court had earlier issued notice on her plea to the Delhi Police seeking its response. It had also passed an interim order restraining it to share any information related to the case with a third party.

On Thursday, the court said the interim order will continue to operate till the next date of hearing.

Responding to the notice, Delhi Police said: “The petitioner (Kalita) herself is guilty of peddling a false social media narrative of state sponsored oppression and subjugation against a particular community which incited the Delhi riots, and after the riots, she is guilty of peddling of a false narrative of a political vendetta, state sponsored pogrom, persecution and malicious prosecution against the said community.”

Explaining the circumstances relating to issuance of a press note on June 2 about the case against Kalita, it has said that it was only an attempt on the part of police to put the things in the right perspective to prevent any flare of public sentiments and to bring out the true facts regarding the offences for which she was arrested.

"The said note was necessary in peculiar facts and circumstances which prevailed in the aftermath of the Delhi riots and was in discharge of the constitutional obligation of respondent (police) to satisfy the right of the citizen to know about the affairs of the society and the right of the journalist to ensure an informed society,” said the police affidavit, filed through advocates Amit Mahajan and Rajat Nair.

The affidavit, by G Ram Gopal Naik, Deputy Commissioner of Delhi Police (Crime), has said the press note was necessary in the circumstances which prevailed in the aftermath of the Delhi riots and was in discharge of the constitutional obligation of the police to satisfy the right of the citizen to know about the affairs of the society and the right of the journalist to ensure an informed society.

“As such it does not lie with the petitioner to now invoke the equity jurisdiction of this court to gag information which she herself had been publishing on social media platforms to gain sympathy and generate public opinion and to dispel false notion fed by the petitioner and her affiliate groups in the minds of the general public,” it has said.

Pinjra Tod (break the cage) group is a collective of women students and alumni of colleges from across Delhi.

Kalita, who was arrested on 23 May, is lodged in Tihar Jail under judicial custody in a case associated with violence in old Delhi's Daryaganj area during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in December last year.

Three cases have been registered against her in relation to north east Delhi riots.

Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on 24 February 24 after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control, leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.

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