“Misusing the judicial system.” “In a state of inscrutable indolence.” “Hardly any connection between CCTV footage and FIR.” “Completely devoid of material.” Those are just some of the words that courts in Delhi have used over the last month with reference to the police’s investigations and legal applications in connection with the cases related to the communal violence in February, which left at least 53 dead and hundreds more injured.
The scattered reports reveal major problems with the way the Delhi Police has been approaching investigation of the violence, which is not a surprise since the authorities have been accused of acting in a partisan manner since the very beginning.
One report in the Indian Express offered a clear view of just how this state bias is playing out. According to the report, the Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) wrote an order to senior officers heading investigation teams, with the aim of guiding them.
This order claimed that the arrests of “some Hindu youth” had led to a “degree of resentment among the Hindu community”, which the Special Commissioner said was cause for the police to take “due care and precaution” in how it proceeds. Although the police insisted that its efforts are impartial, the reference to resentment among only the Hindus suggests that the leadership is willing to let one side guide its actions. The majority of the victims of the violence and by the police’s reckoning, half of those arrested, have been Muslims. The Delhi High Court has now asked for a copy of this order.
The partisan nature of the Delhi Police investigation comes out most clearly in the affidavit it filed earlier this month drawing out the alleged conspiracy. The affidavit blames the violence on the protesters who had come out onto the streets over the previous few months to demonstrate against amendments to the Citizenship Act amendments that had been passed by Parliament, which were religiously discriminatory. The protesters were also opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s repeated promises to build a National Register of Citizens, which many argued could be used to harass Indian Muslims.
The affidavit repeatedly points to speeches made at these protests, somehow arguing that the demonstrators had the power to “engineer” violence – without putting the same lens on BJP leaders like Anurag Thakur who led chants calling for protesters to be shot, Kapil Mishra who threatened mob violence against protesters while standing in front of a police officer and Parvesh Verma who claimed that the protesters would “rape and kill your sisters and daughters”.
No wonder then that the Delhi Police, which is run by the BJP-controlled Centre and not the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi state government, is attempting to ensure it has full control over the outcome of the legal cases as well. The Delhi government has said as much this week, rejecting the panel of lawyers selected by the Delhi Police – including Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi – to argue the cases in the High Court and the Supreme Court. It pointed out pointing out that the courts have pointed out how the investigations so far have been “biased and not impartial”. Prosecutors are supposed to act independent of the investigation and instead offer themselves up as officers of the court.
The Centre, through the Lieutenant Governor, may very well overrule the Delhi government and use the lawyers of its choice. But doing so would only confirm what has been more than apparent all along: that the Delhi Police cannot be trusted to impartially investigate the worst violence in four decades in the national capital, in which its own actions remain suspect.