A Delhi court on Thursday dismissed three bail pleas filed by suspended Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain in connection with the violence in the national Capital in February that took 53 lives and injured hundreds, PTI reported. The clashes took place between supporters and opponents of the Citizenship Amendment Act between February 23 and February 26.
The court said the riots were the worst it had seen since Partition. It called the violence a “gaping wound” in the conscience of a country aspiring to be a major world power. Hussain’s brother has also been arrested in the case.
“It is common knowledge that the dreary day of February 24, 2020, saw parts of Northeast Delhi gripped by a communal frenzy, reminiscent of the carnage during the days of Partition,” Judge Vinod Yadav said. “Soon, the riots spread like wildfire across the smoke-grey skyline of the Capital, engulfing new areas and snuffing out more and more innocent lives.”
The court said that even if no direct acts of violence could be attributable to Hussain, his house became the centrestage for the rioters to unleash violence. The court added that the spread of the riots in such a short time is impossible without a premeditated conspiracy.
“So, when the applicant is at the receiving end now, he cannot pass the buck by simply taking a plea that since he did not participate physically in the riots, he has no role to play in the riots,” Yadav said. “It is prima facie apparent that the applicant abused his muscle power and political clout to foment communal violence in the area.”
One of the cases pertained to about 100 people standing on the roof of Hussain’s home, allegedly throwing petrol bombs at Hindu victims onto the street. The other two cases are related to looting and arson against two shops due to which the owners incurred losses of up to Rs 40 lakh.
The judge said there was enough material on record to prove that Hussain was present at the spot of the crime and exhorted rioters of the Muslim community, using them as “human weapons”. He said the rioters could have killed anybody at Hussain’s instigation. The court said the allegations against Hussain were grave in nature.
Responding to Hussain’s lawyer KK Manan’s claim that there was a delay in recording the statements of the witnesses in the cases, Yadav said that in a case of rioting, the police hardly has any idea who the witnesses are.
“Further, people normally do not come forward and it is admitted position on record that on the date of incident nearly 10,000 police control room calls were recorded in the area of PS Dayalpur,” Yadav said. “Thereafter, on the basis of these calls, the police reverted back and traced out some of the witnesses. Therefore, at this stage, it cannot be said that there is delay in recording of statements of the witnesses by the investigating agency.”
The court also said that though there is no CCTV evidence of Hussain’s complicity, there were enough witnesses to testify. It said that Hussain being a public figure, the public witnesses who were residents of the same locality must have known the councillor very well. The court added that the call detail record analysis established the fact that Hussain was present at or around the scene of the crimes on the date of the incident.
While Manan alleged that Hussain had been falsely implicated in the case by the police and his political rivals for harassing him by abuse of the law machinery, Special Public Prosecutor Manoj Choudhary called the councillor the main conspirator.
Bail plea of man arrested for murder of IB official rejected
Yadav also rejected the bail plea of Sameer Khan, a man arrested in connection with the murder of Intelligence Bureau official Ankit Sharma during the communal violence in Delhi, PTI reported. Yadav said it was apparent from the facts of the case that Khan and other similarly placed persons had been instigated on communal lines by the main accused Tahir Hussain. He said these persons were all charged up to attack members of the Hindu community.
The court said there was enough material on record that clearly identified Khan to be part of the riotous mob which had indulged in arson, looting and vandalising public and private property, shouting communal slogans and attacking Hindus.
“It is clearly apparent that the call detail record location of the mobile phone, allegedly being used by the applicant was at or around the scene of occurrence on the date of incident,” judge Yadav said. “It is not at all the case of the applicant that the mobile does not belong to him.” Khan’s counsel had argued that there had been an unexplained delay in filing the first information report in the case.
Special Public Prosecutor Manoj Choudhary argued that the offences against Khan were serious in nature and he may threaten the public witness in the case if he was released on bail. He also said that while the call detail records were corroborative evidence against Khan, almost every CCTV camera had been destroyed by the rioters.
Hussain is also accused of a role in the murder of Ankit Sharma. In its chargesheet filed in June, the Delhi Police had claimed that there was a deep rooted conspiracy behind Sharma’s murder as he was specifically targeted by a mob led by Hussain. They said that Sharma was brutally killed, with 51 injuries on his body made using sharp weapons. The police also said that the way the Intelligence Bureau official was killed had struck fear in the minds of the people of the area.
The police had also alleged that Hussain had spent Rs 1.10 crore to fund protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the clashes that followed.
Sharma’s body was found in a drain in Chand Bagh locality. He was returning home on February 25 when he was allegedly stoned and beaten to death. The Aam Aadmi Party had first defended Hussain but later suspended him. He has been in judicial custody since March and charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
The violence and the alleged conspiracy
The police claim that the violence was part of a larger conspiracy to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and was hatched by those who organised the protests against the amended Citizenship Act. They further claimed the protestors had secessionist motives and were using “the facade of civil disobedience” to destabilise the government. The police have arrested several activists and students based on these “conspiracy” charges. But the police have been accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence.
The police have named 15 people as accused in a 17,000-page-long chargesheet. All accused have been charged under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Indian Penal Code and the Arms Act.