Former judges Madan Lokur, AP Shah, R.S. Sodhi, Anjana Prakash, and former home secretary GK Pillai have authored the report.
Aroop Mishra/ The Quint
Over two years after the Delhi riots, a scathing indictment of the Delhi police, the Central government, and the Delhi government, has come in the form of a report authored by a committee of former Supreme Court and High Court judges.
The report, titled ‘Uncertain Justice: A Citizens Committee Report on the North East Delhi Violence 2020’, states that: “The Central and State Governments have failed to fulfil their solemn obligation to safeguard lives, property and the rule of law. More than two years since the violence, glaring issues of accountability remain unaddressed.”
The committee that has authored the report consists of Justice Madan B. Lokur, former Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of the Madras and Delhi High Courts and former Chairman of the Law Commission, Justice R.S. Sodhi, former Judge of the Delhi High Court, Justice Anjana Prakash, former Judge of the Patna High Court, and G.K. Pillai, former Home Secretary, Government of India. Justice Lokur is the chairperson of the committee.
The riots, which affected the northeast areas of Delhi in February 2020, led to the death of 53 people—40 Muslims and 13 Hindus, and many more injured. The violence was followed by a series of arrests, including those of activists charged with the stringent UAPA.
Following are the key takeaways from the committee’s three-part, 171-pages long report:
The report first questions why the Delhi police “failed to take any preventive or punitive measures to tackle the polarized atmosphere building up in the run-up to February 23.” Notably, the report draws a comparison with the communal violence which took place in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri in April 2022, and observes that the Delhi police’s reaction was notably different. “More recent events in Delhi testify to how rapidly security force deployment can take place in the city,” the report states.
Further, the report alleges that besides failing to prevent violence in many cases, the Delhi police also showed "complicity of varying degrees in the violence" in other instances.
Citing from various media reports, the committee report states examples such as:
“The very fact that mass violence took place over four days in a district of the nation’s capital city – the seat of both the Government of India and the Government of Delhi – indicates glaring failures of constitutional duties,” the report states.
The report goes on to elaborate how the Delhi police as well as paramilitary forces both come under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and so it is the ministry which must be held responsible for inadequate police response and deployment.
The report also looks at specific news channels and said they played “a key role in propagating hateful narratives.”
“Their audience of daily watching households, as well as their social media presence, ensures that the hateful narratives reach a very wide number.”
The channels mentioned in the report include Republic and Times Now (English), Aaj Tak, Zee News, India TV, Republic Bharat (Hindi).
The report also calls out BJP for focusing its 2020 Delhi election campaign on the anti-CAA protests, “within a divisive narrative framing the anti-CAA protests as anti-national and violent.”
The report states that while the EC did issue some action in some of the cases, it wasn’t of adequate measure. “The Commission stopped short of ordering registration of FIRs against these political leaders for hate speech. With the Commission failing to initiate criminal prosecution, the malaise of hate speech infusing electoral campaigning is likely to spread further," the report states.
The committee also points fingers at the Delhi government, for doing “precious little during this entire time to mediate between the communities, even with the warning signs.”
While the Delhi police comes under the central government, the report states that the Delhi government failed to even “exert the role of civic mediation, and statesmanship, to calm the situation.”
Moreover, the report also criticises the Delhi government for failing to discharge its responsibilities pertaining to relief and compensation “in a meaningful way.” “Government agencies failed to extend effective relief during the days of violence. The lack of adequate relief camps and the sudden closure of the Eidgah camp would have left many vulnerable people with no access to shelter,” the report states.
The report also questions the use of UAPA on activists and others, and said that the committee “has found no material produced through the current investigation that supports the allegation that the said alleged criminal acts constitute a terrorist act.”
“This ill-conceived and unsubstantiated application of UAPA to the present case is not merely stretching the law, but a perversion of the law and appears targeted," the report says.
Several activists including Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, Khalid Saifi and others have been incarcerated for over two years in connection with the Delhi riots.
The report states that it was “anti-Muslim hate at the root of the pre-violence build-up carried over into the actual violence.”
“Muslim identity, ranging from individuals, homes, businesses, and places of worship, was targeted," says the report.
Finally, the report states the investigation into the riots should be entrusted to a body other than the Delhi police, and one which is not under direct control of the MHA.