The Delhi High Court on Monday directed the city police to respond to a plea by the president of Jamia Millia Islamia Alumni Association Shifa-Ur-Rehman, challenging the sanctions granted to prosecute him under the anti-terror law in connection with riots in northeast Delhi in February, PTI reported. Justice Yogesh Khanna issued notice to the state and asked it to file a status report within four weeks on the plea.

Rehman is among the 21 people arrested in the Delhi riots conspiracy case. The Delhi Police have alleged the communal violence that left 53 dead in February was a “pre-meditated conspiracy” hatched and orchestrated by those protesting against the amended Citizenship Act.

In the case, widely described as a witch-hunt against protestors, the police have invoked the draconian anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, against the accused. They also stand charged for murder, sedition, promoting communal enmity, and offence under the Arms Act.

During the hearing on Monday, Rehman also sought to set aside the September 17 order passed by a trial court taking cognisance of the chargesheet filed by the police in the case, on the grounds that it was “bad in law for non-application of mind and passed without jurisdiction”. In its 17,000-page chargesheet filed on September 16, the Delhi Police detailed the charges and evidence against 15 of the 21 people arrested in FIR 59/2020 in the conspiracy case.

Rehman, represented through advocates Abhishek Singh, Amit Bhalla and Shreshth Arya, claimed that the government’s sanction orders were liable to be set aside, as it was an “arbitrary exercise of power”.

The court was told sanctions for prosecuting the accused were purportedly granted in the case on August 10 by Ministry of Home Affairs and on August 11 by the Delhi government, but it was after those dates that the prosecution filed an application seeking extension of time for reinvestigation up to November 17, according to The Indian Express.

“The authority could not have reviewed evidence gathered in the course of the investigation, and made the recommendations, for the simple reason that as on the date when sanctions have been granted, the exercise of gathering evidence was not complete,” the petition said.

Rehman argued that as per Section 45 of the UAPA, no sanction for prosecution can be granted without recommendation of the competent authority – and that authority cannot make any recommendation without conducting an independent review of evidence gathered during investigation.

Therefore, “the recommendations, if any, made by the concerned authority (s) appointed under section 45 (2) of UAPA are arbitrary exercise of power because before making such recommendations no independent review of the evidence gathered has been carried out,” the petition said.

The High Court issued the notice to the state, and listed the matter for further hearing on January 12.

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