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Delhi Riots: Court Recalls Chargesheet After Delhi Police Discloses Names of Protected Witnesses

Image for representation.

Image for representation.

Under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, there is provision for protecting the identity of the witnesses for their safety. The whole idea is to provide cover to the identity of the witnesses so that they can depose fairly and independently in the court.

A Delhi court hearing a case related to the Northeast Delhi riots has been informed that the police "inadvertently" put a document which contained the details of some of the protected witnesses in the copies of the charge sheet supplied to the accused booked under the stringent UAPA.

Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad, appearing for the police, approached the court informing it about the lapse after it came to the knowledge of the investigating agency that at least three protected witnesses have been reached out by various persons with vested interest, in relation to the case.

Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat said there was a mistake on the part of the Investigating Officer and directed the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, which is investigating the case, to ensure comprehensive safety and security to all the protected witnesses.

The court ordered the accused and their counsel to return the documents. It also directed the accused or any other person or authority not to divulge, publish, disclose, disseminate or circulate the identity of the protected witnesses and not to approach them directly or indirectly.

It directed the police to file fresh copies of the charge sheet redacting the details of the protected witnesses and supply it to the 15 persons charge-sheeted in the case and their counsel.

The court's directions came after Prasad moved an urgent application saying the identity of some of the protected witnesses in the case were disclosed inadvertently by way of attaching untruncated judicial and investigation papers in the charge sheet.

"Under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, there is specific provision for protecting the identity of the witnesses for their safety and accordingly orders have been passed regarding the protection of the protected witnesses.

Thus, this particular provision was meant to protect the identity and ensure their safety for the purpose of fair trial, the judge noted.

"The whole idea is to provide cover to the identity of the witnesses so that they can depose fairly and independently in the court. Accordingly, once the order was passed by the court, the identity should not have been disclosed," the court said in its order passed on October 9.

The application moved by Prasad stated the act was neither intentional nor deliberate. The soft copy of the charge sheet, identical to the original charge sheet, was supplied to the accused persons or their counsel, it said.

The court said, "The pen drive supplied to the counsels for accused persons contain the alleged disclosure of the name of the protected witnesses and hence, it would be in the fitness of things to ask them, who are Officers of the Court, to return them in the court.

"The return of the pen drive shall also pertain to the one supplied to the court itself. The record where the disclosure of protected witnesses has happened in the judicial file along with the pen drive in the court shall be kept in a sealed cover in the court in the judicial file and the redacted version of the said record shall be filed in the court. The Investigating Officer shall coordinate with the Ahlmad of the court for doing the needful," it said.

The accused include Pinjra Tod members and JNU students Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha, Gulfisha Khatoon, former Congress Councillor Ishrat Jahan, Jamia Coordination Committee members Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider, Shafa-Ur-Rehman, suspended AAP Councillor Tahir Hussain, activist Khalid Saifi, Shadab Ahmed, Tasleem Ahmed, Salim Malik, Mohd Salim Khan and Athar Khan.

They have been charge-sheeted for allegedly being part of a larger conspiracy in the riots. JNU student Sharjeel Imam and former JNU student leader Umar Khalid have also been arrested under the anti-terror law in the case but not charge-sheeted yet.

The application moved by Prasad stated that the investigating agency was conscious regarding the safety and security of the public witnesses including protected public witnesses.

"The life, liberty, safety and security of the protected public witnesses are of paramount importance. The state is the protector and guardian of the life and liberty of the citizens of this country. During the investigation of this case, the identity of some of the witnesses was kept confidential as contemplated under the UA(P) Act.

"It is also necessary that the relevant documents be extracted from the judicial file and replaced with truncated version and the original is sealed and kept on record. The present application is being filed bonafide and in the interest of justice, equity and fair play," the application said.

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.


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