The Delhi High Court on Friday pulled up the police for leaking to the media a supplementary chargesheet filed in a case related to the February 2020 violence in the Capital, reported PTI. The court said that the chargesheet was leaked even before the court took cognisance of it, and that an offence had occurred.

Justice Mukta Gupta asked the Delhi police commissioner to file an affidavit revealing the identity of the person responsible for leaking the information to the media. “It is a proved allegation [of leakage] once it comes in media,” the judge said, according to the news agency. “It no more remains an allegation now. You have to ascertain who has done it,” the court told the counsel for the police.

The Delhi Police’s counsel, Amit Mahajan, maintained that the contents of the supplementary chargesheet were not leaked by police officers, and therefore the responsibility cannot be fixed on them. But the High Court said the chargesheet was a property “in the hands of a police officer and if your officer has leaked it it’s abuse of power, if for sanction this was entrusted to someone else it’s criminal breach of trust and if the media has taken it away then it’s a theft. So in any case, an offence is made out.”

The Delhi High Court was hearing an application of Jamia Millia Islamia University student Asif Iqbal Tanha, whose plea sought an independent enquiry into the alleged leakage of case material by the police, reported Live Law. “This has now reached a point where the only answer the agency has got is that I have not done it, and I don’t know who has,” Tanha’s counsel said.

The matter was listed for further hearing on March 25.

A sessions court in Delhi on Tuesday observed that it was “unfair and unjust” on the media’s part to report on exact contents of the chargesheet in a case when the court was yet to take cognisance on the matter, and the accused had not been provided its copies. The court said that such reporting raised the question of “leakage” of the chargesheet.

The judge’s comment came after former Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid pointed out to the court about “media trials” in the case.

Delhi violence

A main chargesheet was filed in September against Kalita and Narwal, Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha, and student activist Gulfisha Fatima. Others who have been named in the chargesheet include former Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan, Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider and Shifa-Ur-Rehman, suspended Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain, activists Khalid Saifi, Shadab Ahmed, Tasleem Ahmed, Salim Malik, Mohd Salim Khan and Athar Khan.

A supplementary chargesheet was filed in November against activist Umar Khalid and Jawaharlal Nehru University student Sharjeel Imam in the alleged conspiracy behind the communal violence.

Clashes had broken out between supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing it between February 23 and 26 last year in North East Delhi, killing at least 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 in Delhi since the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.

The Delhi Police claim that the violence was part of a larger conspiracy to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and was planned by those who organised the protests against the amended Citizenship Amendment Act. They also 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.