Delhi Police say 1,753 held but courts heard over 4,347 bail pleas

Delhi Police say 1,753 held but courts heard over 4,347 bail pleas

New Delhi: Records available with the district courthouse where all the February 2020 north-east Delhi riots cases are being tried have now shown that at least 4,347 bail applications were processed in one year since the deadly riots. This despite Delhi Police figures pegging total arrests at 1,753, of which 544 have secured bail and 1,204 remain incarcerated.

Just one of the four courts assigned specifically for these cases had granted 3,472 bails and denied 759 other applications for bail till early January this year.

In addition to this, one other district court in the Karkardooma courthouse and the Delhi High Court have heard, granted and denied hundreds of other bail applications amongst themselves.

Of course, many of these applications relate to the same accused person charged in separate riots-related cases and many are of appeals being filed to an earlier order denying bail, providing one possible explanation for the discrepancy between the Delhi Police's and the court's data.

Nonetheless, the procedure followed by the police for their arrests is unraveled in how these accused found themselves implicated in multiple cases of rioting, arson and related charges — in a large number of cases, police personnel were cited as sole eyewitnesses to the crimes but registered their complaints after considerable delay and in many cases, the accused purportedly "disclosed" their involvement in other cases but most of these disclosures are under Section 161 of the CrPC (inadmissible evidence).

Apart from Delhi High Court data, numbers from the district courthouse showed that at least 800 bailed application have been denied bail till January this year.

The court of Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ), North-East district, Vinod Yadav has dealt with the bulk of the bail applications, allowing over 3,400 bail pleas and denying bail in 759 other cases.

In the court of ASJ Amitabh Rawat, Shahdara District, around 74 bail pleas have been granted bail till December 22 while 42 applications have been denied till December 29, according to court data. ASJ Rawat's court started taking cases from June 27 onwards.

But while hundreds of chargesheets have been filed and the Delhi Police say they have finished their investigation in about 400 of these cases, none of them have reached the trial stage in the judicial process.

The Delhi Police have said that around 250 of their chargesheets had been taken cognizance of by the courts but Karkardooma court records show that 73 chargesheets have been taken cognizance of. The police have also said that "some of the important" cases have already reached the stage of argument on charges, which comes after a chargesheet's cognizance has been taken.

For instance, ASJ Rawat's court has taken cognizance of just one chargesheet — filed in the UAPA case by Special Cell to probe the "larger conspiracy" behind the riots. The police have accused a slew of students, activists and a few former councillors in the case — all of them central to organising large-scale peaceful protests against the contentious CAA and NRC. The chargesheet is 17,000 pages long and while its cognizance has been taken, the Delhi High Court has stayed the trial in the case.

In Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Fahad Uddin's court, out of a total of around 75 chargesheets, as of December 20, cognizance and committal have been done for 65. CMM Uddin started taking cases on June 16. Cases move from CMM Uddin's court to ASJ Rawat's for further process.

As for CMM Dinesh Kumar's court, court officials said that till December 29, just seven chargesheets have been taken cognizance of. As of September 18 last year, a total of 225 chargesheet had been filed in this court. The court started adjudicating cases from May 15 onwards. Cases move to ASJ Yadav's court from here for further proceedings.

Committal of chargesheets is usually done by magistrate courts, which is preceded by the Metropolitan Magistrate first studying the chargesheet, taking its cognizance and subsequently providing it to the accused and his lawyer under section 207 of CrPC. They are then sent to the appropriate sessions judge for further proceedings.

It is important to note that all the riots cases are being overseen and presided over by four special courts in Delhi's Karkardooma courthouse — as assigned by the Delhi High Court in June last year.

Presently, there are two Sessions courts and two Magistrate courts functioning out of the Karkardooma District Court, which holds jurisdiction for adjudicating cases of areas in and around north-east Delhi.

An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that ASJ Rawat's court had denied bail to 42 accused. The court had denied 42 bail applications. The error has been corrected.

This is the first part in Millennium Post's series of reports highlighting the nuances of how the north-east district has changed, what level of distrust has been sown into the community, how policing has changed in the area, how or whether the victims are coping, the problems they are facing with the criminal justice system and the problems police, prosecutors and defence lawyers are having to deal with in courts -- One year after the north-east Delhi riots that killed at least 53 people and injured nearly 600 others. The other parts of the series can be found here:

Part 2: In 100 bail orders: 'Videos' used for arrest in 44; 32 of these failed court scrutiny

Part 3: Of courts' bugbears, most common 'doubtful' police, public witness statements

Part 4: A Delhi Police-sized roadblock in victims' path to justice — clubbing of irrelevant, unrelated FIRs

Part 5: Defence lawyers face an opaque prosecution and an uncooperative probe authority

Part 6: Interactions with police have led to a complete breakdown of trust for many

Part 7: Pandemic response helped us repair relations with the community, say Delhi Police

Part 8: Over 2.7K compensation pleas pending re-assessment — all scattered & none to blame yet

Part 9: Justice an afterthought for families of most victims still struggling to move on

Part 10: Collateral damage: Tales from jail, of abuse & trauma

Part 11: How, when and where it began & why it is missing from cops' theory

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