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Opinion

As Judges Slam Riots Investigation, Delhi Police Must Fight To Retain Public Trust

Delhi Police
Representational image of the Delhi Police. Photo: PTI.

Things aren’t going according to a plan for the Delhi Police, that is if the police actually had a plan to begin with. Hemmed in by the perceived anxiety of its top brass to curry favour with the political masters, the police force has shown a complete disregard for established principles of investigation and police manual when it comes to politically- and communally sensitive matters, especially the Delhi riots. Ditto for cases like an attack on JNU hostels by outsiders, the case of “Sulli deals”, where photos of Muslim women were displayed without their consent, etc.

Consider these recent observations by various courts in Delhi with regard to the investigation by Delhi Police in riots-related cases:

It is painful to note that in a large number of cases of riots, the standard of investigation is very poor… In a majority of cases, the investigating officers (IOs) are not appearing in court. Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Yadav.

I am not able to restrain myself from observing that when history looks back at the worst communal riots since partition in Delhi, it is the failure of the investigating agency to conduct a proper investigation by using the latest scientific methods, that will surely torment the sentinels of democracy. Judge Yadav.

On September 2, this court had discharged the accused persons in FIR No.109/2020, PS Dayalpur. In the said case, one of the complaints tagged along with the main complaint was of Zeeshan’s. The matter was investigated and chargesheet in the matter was filed… In this case (117/2020), FIR was registered on the very same complaint by Zeeshan. The matter was again investigated and chargesheet filed. The learned special public prosecutor was asked a specific question as to how the present chargesheet is sustainable? Judge Yadav.

This court is unable to proceed with the case on merits along with other riots cases due to the lackadaisical attitude of the investigating agency, including supervising officers up to the rank of DCP and above. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Arun Kumar Garg.

“Perusal of the case diary reveals a disturbing fact. The investigation seems to be targeted only towards one end.” Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana. (May 2020).

These damning observations, most in less than a fortnight, about the shoddy investigation done by Delhi Police in some of the cases pertaining to last year’s riots in the nation’s capital l don’t show the police in good light. In fact, it only adds to the growing perception that the capital’s police force doesn’t know how to do its job properly, or doesn’t want to.

If not for its own prestige, the police should have conducted a proper investigation to give justice to the 53 people who died and the hundreds of those who were injured or whose properties were looted and burnt during the deadliest riots witnessed in the capital in several decades.

When viewed in the light of earlier strongly worded observations by various courts, including the Delhi High Court, which, while granting bail to student-activists Asif Iqbal Tanha, Natasha Narwal, and Devangana Kalita in connection with the Delhi riots had come down heavily on the Delhi Police for trying to build a case with “superfluous verbiage, hyperbole and stretched inferences” (Justice Mridul Siddharth and Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani), the conduct of the police leaves much to be desired. 

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READ: A Court Judgment For The Country And The Future, Says Asif Iqbal Tanha After Release From Tihar

In a country where the rule of law is supposed to be supreme, heads must roll, beginning from the top brass, in the Delhi Police for bringing disrepute to the force. If the Delhi Police were a private organization, after such repeated instances of tongue-lashing by courts, the annual appraisals of the top brass as well as the investigating officers in these sensitive cases would have been below par – below expectation in private sector HR parlance. But the way things are now, the safe bet is that nothing will happen and life will go on as it is.

When courts use words like “motivated”, “lackadaisical”, “failure”, “poor” to describe the police force and its investigation, it opens the door for the work of ever diligent cops to come under scrutiny, bringing bad name to the entire force.

Governments come and go, the police must remember. What is permanent is the respect that the public should have for the police. Strictures from courts don’t add to that respect. In fact, they only diminish it.

It is high time the police got its act together and stopped making a hash of cases. For soon, it may be too late to even pretend to make amends. 

Maneesh Chhibber is a Consulting Editor with India Ahead News. The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author.

READ: We Owe It To The Country And To History: Devangana Kalita & Natasha Narwal On Speaking Truth To Power

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