The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the police to investigate without any “influence or fear”, the death of 23-year old Faizan, who was beaten up by policemen and forced to sing the national anthem during the communal violence in the national capital in 2020, reported The Indian Express.
“Whatever important person is involved, whatever VIP is involved, you have to complete the investigation without any influence,” Justice Chandra Dhari Singh told the police.
A video shot on February 24, 2020, showed police personnel beating up Faizan, and four others, while ordering them to sing the national anthem and chant “Vande Mataram”. Faizan was then allegedly kept detained at Delhi’s Jyoti Nagar police station.
He died on February 26, two days after he was beaten up and soon after his release.
Faizan’s mother Kismatun had filed a plea before the High Court seeking an inquiry by a Special Investigation Team. Kismatun alleged that the police had illegally detained her son and denied him critical health care due to which he succumbed to his injuries.
On Tuesday, the judge questioned the police on why a chargesheet had not been filed in the matter even after two years since the incident.
To this, the deputy commissioner of police submitted that many policemen from different units were reporting to him during the communal violence in 2020.
He added that the police have interrogated a head constable in the matter and were still investigating certain elements of the case. The police submitted that they were still examining CCTV camera footage and other recorded videos of the incident, and the identification process will be completed soon.
“We have some technical evidence...We have zeroed in on one person who was there,” the deputy commissioner of police said, according to Bar and Bench. “His polygraph test was done. He was not seen beating. We have taken his voice sample.”
He also said that the police would take legal action against the concerned officials once they gather more evidence.
In response, the court asked the police to treat the officials as criminals under provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.
“They are criminals and should be dealt with as per the provisions of law. The son of a mother has died, it has to be taken very seriously,” said the judge, according to Bar and Bench.
Senior advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Faizan’s family submitted that there were many loopholes in the investigation, and that officials at the Jyoti Nagar police station were misleading the probe.
“There are two scenes of crime...They are not investigating the other scene”, Grover said, reported Bar and Bench. She demanded a transparent investigation into what happened after Faizan was taken to Jyoti Nagar police station.
“They have to tell us why they are reluctant to investigate,” Grover said. Curiously, the CCTV in the police station was not working the night of the incident.”
The court asked the police to submit a status report on the matter after taking the petitioner’s submissions into consideration. The matter has been listed for hearing next on May 17. Justice Dhari also warned the police against irregularities in the report they submit.
“I am not here to interfere in any manner in the investigation of the investigating agency [but] if I saw anything hanky panky in this [status] report, then I can interfere.
In the last hearing of the case on February 23, Justice Mukta Gupta of the Delhi High Court said that the status report submitted by the police was “neither here nor there”. She had asked the police to explain why Faizan’s post mortem report recorded 20 injuries, while a medical report before his detention in police custody had noted only three injuries.
The court also questioned why the police had not recorded the statements of the four others who were beaten up, and were witnesses.
“In this case, you [police] have not taken the help of eyewitnesses but gone all over the world,” the judge had said.
In a hearing in 2020, the police had told the court that they had not been able to identify the officers in the video footage of the incident, as they were wearing helmets and were not wearing name plates. The police also said that they had interrogated a head constable in the matter.
Grover had then told the court that Faizan, after being beaten up, was kept overnight in “illegal detention” when he was about to die. She alleged that the police did not seal documents such as the duty roster of the Jyoti Nagar police station and did not carry out any questioning on who was on duty that night.
The High Court had criticised the police for its handling of the case on January 12 as well. Justice Gupta questioned why the police had been able to identify just one person in two years.
The judge also asked why the police did not trace the origin of the video. Pankaj Arora, the investigating officer in the case, had replied that they had found that the video had been filmed on the head constable’s phone, but during inquiry, he denied shooting it.
Fifty-three people were killed and hundreds more injured in the rioting that broke out in North East Delhi between February 23 and February 26, 2020, after protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act triggered a violent backlash against Muslim protestors. At least 38 of those killed were Muslim.