25 FIRs But 1 Chargesheet: Is Delhi Police Lacking Evidence on R-Day Violence?
The Quint spoke to some of the lawyers to understand the status of the cases.
One charge sheet. That's all the Delhi police has filed so far, despite registering 25 FIRs and making 151 arrests – all of whom got bail in a span of five months – in the violence that broke out in the national capital on 26 January 2021, as farmers carried out a tractor rally on Republic Day.
For nine months now, farmers have been protesting at the national capital borders, seeking the farm laws be scrapped. Several rounds of talks with the government have failed to end the impasse.
On 17 May, the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police filed a charge sheet in the FIR registered for the violence that ensued at Red Fort. The charge sheet names 16 people, including Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu and Iqbal Singh, who was doing a Facebook Live session in which he allegedly instigated protesters.
But why the Delhi Police has not filed a charge sheet on the remaining 24 FIRs remains a mystery.
'I Am Worried About My Case'
Sixty-three-year-old Joginder Singh was arrested by the Delhi Police on 28 January 2021 from the Burari border in Delhi for participating in the farmers' protests. He was booked under the charges of assault and disobedience to a public servant. He got bail after spending 16 days in Tihar Jail. The Delhi Police has not yet filed a charge sheet in his case.
I have not been contacted by the Delhi Police ever since I got bail. I don't know what's happening in my case. But yes, I am worried about my case. Any day, police or court might summon me to Delhi.Joginder Singh, Farmers protester
But the criminal case has failed to dampen Joginder's determination to be part of the ongoing farmers' protests.
After his release from jail, Joginder has visited the protest sites at Delhi's borders many a time.
I have been to Tikri border and Singhu border after I was released from the Tihar jail. I participated in farmers' protests at Tikri border for a week and then came back to my village. I will continue to be part of the protest; no police or criminal charge can stop me. This fight is to secure the future of our next generation.Joginder Singh, Farmer
Joginder said that a few other farmers who were arrested with him have joined the protest after being released from jail. But at the same time they are worried about their family's safety if at all they are again arrested by the police, said Joginder.
Those who were arrested are farmers. They are scared for themselves and their family. They know that eventually they will be acquitted by the court but before that, they will have to fight a long legal battle.Kiranjeet Shekhon, Senior Advocate
What is the Status of the Cases?
A committee of lawyers was set up to provide legal assistance to those who have been booked in 25 FIRs. All lawyers are giving legal service pro-bono to 151 people.
The Quint spoke to some of these lawyers to understand the status of the cases.
In these 25 FIRs, the farmers' protesters were booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) like attempt to murder, punishment for rioting and assault to deter public servant from discharge of duty.
During the tractors' rally protest, over 400 Delhi policemen were injured while controlling the protesters. The Delhi Police then claimed that they will use facial recognition technology as evidence to nab the culprits.
If arrests were made on the basis of facial recognition technology, then why has the police has not yet filed this evidence in the court with the charge sheet?
Legally speaking, a person can get bail if the investigating agency fails to file a charge sheet in the case within sixty days from his arrest, said a lawyer appearing for the farmers on the condition of anonymity. And this is one of the reasons why many got bail in this incident.
Police will not be able to sustain its case even after they file a charge sheet due to lack of evidence. Most of those who have been arrested are farmers. Very few cases will go on trial after the charge sheet is filed.Farmers' Lawyer
'Delay in Charge Sheet Delays Justice'
The farmers' lawyer further added that during the bail hearing, the court took strong note of those who were arrested under the Section 149 of IPC, ie, unlawful assembly in the Red Fort violence. The court said that the police has to prove the role of the accused in the violence, and that merely their presence at the spot is not enough to charge them under Section 149 IPC.
The lawyer points out that the delay in charge sheet is a big hurdle as they are unable to take the next legal step.
Once the charge sheet is filed, we will certainly decide on cases that are fit for quashing. Charge sheet means that the police's investigation in that matter is over. Then it becomes easier to prove why a particular case should be quashed. But defence cannot make any legal move till the time the charge sheet is filed in the court.Famers' Lawyer
Of 25 FIRs, one FIR was registered at Samaypur Badli police station that mentioned the names of farmer leaders, including Darshan Pal, Yogendra Yadav and 35 others.
There is no progress in the FIR against the farmer leaders. No arrest, no charge sheet. None of them were questioned by the police.Kiranjeet Shekhon, Senior Advocate
On 27 January, the Delhi Police issued a notice to 40 farmer leaders for violating terms and conditions agreed upon for holding a tractor rally on Republic Day.
On behalf of all farmer leaders, a response to this notice was filed with the Delhi police, said Shekhon. There was no further communication by the police.
Speaking on a grievous charge like attempt to murder which was levied on some protesters, Shekhon said that merely registering a case under this section does not make someone guilty.
To prove attempt to murder, the police has to prove the person had a weapon or some article in his hand while attacking the person with the intention to kill him. Such evidence has not been produced by the police in any of the FIRs. Because of this lacuna, people got bail from the court.Kiranjeet Shekhon, Senior Advocate
Shekhon said that a criminal case is leading to mental harassment for some farmers but they have no option but to fight.
The lack of evidence presented by the Delhi Police raises several questions on their probe.
Is the delay in filing more charge sheets a result of Delhi Police's failure to gather evidence?
We wrote to the Delhi Police seeking their comment. This report will be updated if and when we receive a response.
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