The Delhi High Court on Friday pulled up the Delhi Police for asking its personnel to exercise “due care and precaution” while making arrests in connection with the February communal violence in the Capital, to avoid “Hindu resentment”, Live Law reported.

On July 16, The Indian Express had reported that the Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) Praveer Ranjan wrote an order to senior officers heading investigation teams, with the aim of guiding them. The order claimed that the arrests of “some Hindu youth” had led to a “degree of resentment among the Hindu community”, which Ranjan said was cause for the police to take “due care and precaution” in how it proceeds.

It cited an “intelligence input” about the arrests of “some Hindu youth from Chand Bagh and Khajuri Khas areas of Northeast Delhi”. The order added that community representatives are alleging that these arrests are made without any evidence, and are also suggesting the arrests are made “for personal reasons”.

The High Court termed the direction mischievous and asked Ranjan to explain the need to issue it. Justice Suresh Kait also inquired if the Delhi Police issued “such orders” in other cases as well. Ranjan had joined the court proceedings via video conference.

The court was hearing a petition led by one Sahil Parvez, whose father was allegedly shot dead near his home during the communal riots in North East Delhi, and Mohd Saeed Salmani, whose elderly mother was allegedly lynched in her house by rioters. The petition, led on the basis of the Indian Express report, sought quashing of the July 8 order on the ground that it sent a wrong message.

Advocate Amit Mahajan, representing the Delhi Police, contended that the petition was “highly mischievous”. But the court told Mahajan that Ranjan’s order was also mischievous. “Tell me what was the need to issue this letter?” it asked.

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However, Mahajan argued that the order was a “normal practice” adopted by the police to “sensitise police officials” to exercise precaution. He said whenever any complaint or input comes to his knowledge, such a communication is issued, and the same was done on July 8.

The Delhi police further contended that all cases in connection with the communal violence had been registered before the July 8 order and so, no prejudice was caused to members of any community. Besides this, Mahajan said the police had passed several such orders in other cases in the past.

The court then asked Ranjan to place within two days five such orders or letter in a sealed cover, which he or his predecessor had issued. It has listed the matter for further hearing on August 7.

The violence and investigation

Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the new citizenship law and those opposing it between February 23 and 26 in North East Delhi, killing 53 people and injuring hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods. The violence was the worst Delhi saw since the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.

In multiple chargesheets filed last month, the police had claimed the violence in Delhi was a result of a conspiracy to defame the Narendra Modi-led government. They alleged that people who had organised protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act were the conspirators. However, the police have failed to produce video evidence so far.