Delhi, India: On March 13, a Delhi Court convicted nine men, Mohd Shahnawaz alias Shanu, Mohd Shoaib alias Chhutwa, Shahrukh, Rashid alias Raja, Azad, Ashraf Ali, Parvez, Mohd Faisal, Rashid alias Monu, in a case related to Delhi Riots 2020. The Delhi Police charge-sheeted the above-named accused persons for committing offences punishable u/s 147, 148, 149, 188, 380, 427 & 436 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The complainant alleged that while she was at her house, she witnessed stone pelting in her gali and there was a mob at the gate attempting to break her house’s gate. She called her husband, who came home and took her to a safe place and locked the gate. She further alleged that the mob broke open her house’s rear gate on the intervening night of February 24 and 25, 2020, and robbed the goods. The mob also damaged her house and set the upper floor’s room on fire. The Delhi Police registered her complaint in FIR No. 53/2020.
The Court has convicted all nine accused of offences punishable us/ 147, 148, 149, 188, 380, 427 & 436 of the IPC. While three accused were lodged in jail, six accused were out on bail. The Court has directed for all nine accused to be taken into judicial custody. The Court will hear the arguments on the sentence on March 29.
Earlier, the Court acquitted all nine accused in connection to FIR No. 40/2020, Gokalpuri Police Station and four accused in connection to FIR No. 83/2020. The two FIRs were similar to the present case i.e. FIR No. 53/2020.
Head Constable Hari Babu and Constable Vipin Kumar were prime witnesses in all three cases as they were the police officials on duty at the place. However, in the two cases where the accused were acquitted, Hari Babu failed to identify the accused persons citing the passage of time. Therefore, the Court acquitted them citing that Constable’s sole testimony is not sufficient to ascertain their presence in the mob.
Hari Babu identified the accused persons in the present case. The Court noted that Hari Babu identified, “accused Shahnawaz, Rashid, Azad, Faisal, Parvez, before the court correctly by taking their names and pointed out to accused Rashid s/o Khalil, Shoiab and Shahrukh, without taking their names. He deposed that he had seen these persons in that mob, who had not covered their faces. He also deposed that he knew some of them since prior to the riots. As per his testimony, he had seen some of the accused persons in the same locality during the course of his duty in that beat. He had also identified faces of some members, though he did not know their names.”
However, the counsel for the accused challenged Hari Babu’s credibility on the basis of his previous testimony wherein recorded in FIR No. 40/2020 and 83/2020. The defence submitted, “At that time this witness could not identify the accused persons in FIR 40/20, taking plea of lapse of long time. However, he had stated that he had seen some persons in the mob and identified them. He had disclosed names of those persons as Shahrukh, Parvez and Azad. In that case, he was talking about the riotous act of the mob as taken place on Main Brijpuri Road on 25.02.2020 at about 01-02 PM.” The defence argued that the witness identified the nine accused in the present case after being tutored.
The prosecution argued that the “mishappening taken place in one case, the testimony of the same witness as given in other cases should not be seen with suspicion and rejected,” referring to Hari Babu’s failure to identify the nine accused in FIR No. 40/2020 due to his unfit mental condition at the time of his examination.
The Court agreed with the prosecution’s arguments after Hari Babu’s medical records were placed on record before the Court. The Court also noted, “It is also worth to mention here that after his examination in FIR No.40/20, this witness was examined in another FIR No.83/20 on same day, wherein he had identified some of the accused persons and at that time the court had recorded its observations about failure of this witness to identify those accused in FIR No.40/20 and his subsequent identification in FIR No. 83/20. However, at that time the court could not and did not assess the reasons behind such conduct of this witness and therefore, those observations cannot be guiding factor as if now. The subsequent identification could be because the witness would have occasion to recollect the faces during his cross examination in the previous case i.e. FIR 40/20.”
The Court also noted that the defence counsel cross-examined Hari Babu at length. Therefore, the Court rejected the defence’s arguments that he was tutored and stated, “Therefore, there remains minimum chances of tutoring a witness regarding his answers to be given during his cross-examination. The cross-examination of a witness, hence, becomes an important tool to assess his credibility, while appreciating the coherence and consistence of his statement regarding the relevant facts deposed by him in his examination in chief.”
The Court observed, “The plea taken by defence in respect of location of mobile phone of accused persons being in the same area, was that since they were resident of same area, therefore, it was natural to have such mobile location in their CDR. Thus, this plea in itself supports the case of prosecution that PW6 or for that matter PW7 had the natural occasion to see the accused persons in that area frequently, which became basis for them to identify the accused persons in the mob and retain faces of these persons. Being aware of name of some accused persons is also not unnatural, if their names are heard on regular basis.”
The Court added, “Thus, on overall appreciation of testimony of PW6, I do not find any material contradiction or infirmity appearing in respect of the presence of PW6 at the concerned place during intervening night of 24/25.02.2020 and him witnessing the incident at A-49. I also do not find any material contradiction in respect of identification of accused persons by this witness in that mob, which was there during incident at A-49.”
The Court observed that there was a delay in examination of witnesses due to the unexpected riots in Delhi “for about three-four days, there had been huge pressure upon the police agency” and the Covid-19 pandemic. The Court said, “Therefore, there was impact on the functioning of every organization. Police organization was no exception to this impact. Police in Delhi would have been recovering from the impact of riots taken place during concluding days of February 2020, when they were also expected to enforce the norms devised on account of Covid-19. For such reasons, I find that the above-mentioned explanation given by IO cannot be treated as an after-thought and artificial kind of explanation.”
The Court concluded, “In view of my foregoing discussions, observations and findings, I
find that charges levelled against all the accused persons in this case are proved beyond doubts. Hence, accused 1. Mohd. Shahnawaz @ Shanu, 2. Mohd. Shoaib @ Chhutwa, 3. Shahrukh, 4. Rashid @ Raja, 5. Azad, 6. Ashraf Ali, 7. Parvez, 8. Md. Faisal and 9. Rashid @ Monu, are convicted for offences punishable under Section 147/148/380/427/436 read with Section 149 IPC as well as under Section 188 IPC.”