Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava on Friday said technology was used in the inquiry of more than 750 cases related to last year’s violence in North East Delhi that claimed 53 lives. During an annual press conference at the police headquarters in the Capital, the senior police officer said that 94 people were arrested after being identified from their driving licences.

The police commissioner said that three Special Investigation Teams were formed for the case. “One of the cases was registered to unearth the conspiracy behind the riots, which was investigated by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police while the remaining cases were investigated by the North East district,” he added.

Shrivastava said that a total of 755 FIRs were registered in the matter, and the police “made it a point that no one had a grievance that their complaint was not acknowledged”.

In March, had tracked down three cases that raise questions about the police’s conduct. The families of many victims of the violence allege that the police have not only been passive, failing to pursue such cases independently, even after they submitted written complaints, the police have ignored them. In one case, the police did not file an FIR after a family reported a young man was missing. His body was later fished out of a drain, but the family claimed no FIR was filed then.

The Delhi Police chief spoke about how technological advancements were put to use to identify suspects in the case. “The electronic devices much of the data that was deleted...the chats etc...those were retrieved,” he said. “Then the geo-location of those who were present in the riots...through the geo-location many were identified. Drone mapping was done to recreate crime scenes.”

Shrivastava said that 231 of the accused were arrested on the basis of CCTV footage. “Of them, 137 were identified through Facial Recognition System when matched with criminal records and remaining 94 were through driving licence photographs,” he added. “Use of DNA finger printing, facial recognition, fund flow analysis and forensic teams comprising physical, chemical, biological and ballistic analysis of videos and photographs through open sources were also used to investigate the cases,” he said.

On July 24, a court in Delhi had said the police had failed to produce video evidence against those accused of conspiracy in the large-scale violence. “The police seems to be in a state of inscrutable insolence in collection of relevant video footage,” the court had said. “The indolence is a cause of concern.”


Delhi violence

Clashes had broken out between supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing it between February 23 and 26, 2020, 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 the Capital saw since the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.

The Delhi Police claim 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 façade of civil disobedience” to destabilise the government. The police have arrested several activists and students based on these “conspiracy” charges.

Two chargesheets have been filed so far in connection with the violence. In September, a case of rioting was registered at the Khajuri Khas Police Station in which 15 people, including suspended Aam Aadmi Party Councillor Tahir Hussain, were arrested. All the 15 have been accused under sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Indian Penal Code and Arms Act. The 17,000-page chargesheet was filed at Karkardooma court.

On November 22, the Delhi Police filed a supplementary chargesheet against former student leader Umar Khalid and two other Jawaharlal Nehru University student activists Sharjeel Imam and Faizan Khan in the case. In the 200-page chargesheet, the police claimed that Khalid had “remotely controlled” the violence. The former JNU student was accused of orchestrating the violence during United States President Donald Trump’s visit to Delhi.

On February 9, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs told the Lok Sabha that the Delhi Police had acted in a swift and impartial manner while dealing with the 2020 North East Delhi violence.