A Delhi court has allowed the police to take voice sample of Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha, arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for investigation in a north east Delhi riots case. Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat directed the investigating officer to coordinate with Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), CBI, Lodhi Colony (New Delhi), to fix a time and date for obtaining the voice samples and inform the court about it so that production warrants could be issued. The court said the voice sample should be taken while ensuring all COVID-19 protocols.
The police had moved the court seeking its permission to take voice samples of Tanha so that certain alleged incriminating data/audio files, retrieved by CERT-In technology from his mobile phone, could be matched with it. While allowing the police's plea, the court said the aspect of taking voice samples of an accused was an aspect of the investigation and it did not make the accused a witness against himself.
Accused Asif Iqbal Tanha is already arrested in the case and is in judicial custody. His regular bail has already been dismissed by this court. Further investigation is in progress. The aspect of taking voice samples of an accused is an aspect of investigation. As such, it does not make the accused witness against himself. Accordingly, in the interest of investigation, the application, moved by the Investigating Officer of the present case seeking permission to take voice sample of the accused Asif Iqbal Tanha, is allowed, it said in its December 15 order, and passed certain directions to protect the rights of the accused.
It said the Investigating Officer (IO) should coordinate with CFSL, CBI, Lodhi Colony (New Delhi), and fix a time and date for obtaining voice samples and inform the court about the same so that production warrants of could be issued. It said the Tihar Jail Superintendent should ensure his production on the specified time at CFSL. The Jail Superintendent as also the Director, CFSL, CBI, Lodhi Road,New Delhi, shall ensure due compliance of Covid protocol while ensuring the completion of process of voice sample. The Director CFSL, CBI, Lodhi Colony, New Delhi, shall get prepared a proposed transcript of the text to be read by the accused under his supervision or through a voice sample expert available at the CFSL on the basis of the material supplied by the IO of the present case, for the purposes of investigation and obtaining voice samples The Director CFSL, CBI, Lodhi Colony, New Delhi/IO shall file a copy of proposed transcript once it is prepared by the Director CFSL, CBI,Lodhi Colony, New Delhi, or under his supervision, in terms of the directions, in a sealed envelope before this court, the court said.
It further directed the police to intimate Tanha's counsel about the specified date and time of his production at CFSL. It added that the accused's counsel may remain present at the time of obtaining voice samples with the permission of the Director of CFSL or the IO and have legal interview with Tanha for 15 minutes only. Counsel for the accused shall not interfere/raise objections to the proceedings being conducted at CFSL, CBI, Lodhi Colony. When the voice sample of the accused are being taken at CFSL, CBI,Lodhi Colony, the copy of the transcript to be read by the accused at the time of obtaining voice samples as prepared by them in terms of the directions shall be supplied to the counsel for the accused, the court noted.
During the hearing, Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad, appearing for the police, said data retrieved from the accused's mobile phone by the CERT-In technology was examined and allegedly some incriminating audio files have been found, for which the voice sample was required to identify and match it with the data. Advocate Sowjhanya Shankaran, appearing for Tanha, denied all the contents of the application and claimed the arrest of the accused in the case was wholly illegal and without any evidence.
Shankaran further said Tanha has diligently cooperated with the investigation from the beginning and even much prior to his arrest and undertakes to do so subject to the exercise of his fundamental right against selfincrimination. She further said it was settled law that the recording of a voice sample of an accused person during the course of investigation can be done only for the purposes of comparison, and the material against which comparison was sought ought to be admissible and provided to the accused and the court.
She added that there was absolutely no reason or explanation provided by the Investigating Agency as to what material they seek to compare the accused's voice sample with and sought the court's direction to the police to produce the recording and transcript of the material they seek to compare with the accused's voice sample and provide the proposed transcript of the text to be read out by the accused. The court had asked for the transcript of the audio files and it was submitted in a sealed cover by the police.
Communal violence had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after clashes between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.