The Delhi High Court has questioned the Special Commissioner of Police for issuing an order to its teams probing the northeast Delhi riots asking them to exercise due care and precaution while making any arrests.
The court's questioning came on a plea by the families of two victims who were killed during the February violence in Delhi, alleging that the senior officer's order to the chiefs of teams probing the riot matters was sending a wrong message.
Justice Suresh Kumar Kait asked Special Commissioner of Delhi Police (Crime and Economic Offences Wing) Praveer Ranjan, who joined the hearing through video conferencing, as to what was the need to issue such a letter on July 8 to his subordinate officials and queried if the police issues such orders in other cases also.
To this, the IPS officer replied that this is a normal practice adopted by them to sensitise the officials to exercise due care and precaution.
He said whenever any complaint or input comes to his knowledge, such a communication is issued, as was done on July 8.
"An input was received by the agency and whenever such input is received, we sensitise our officers so that they shall exercise due care and precaution during the investigation," he said, adding that besides the riots matter, they have passed several such orders in other cases in the past.
He said all the cases of the riots had been registered before the July 8 letter, so no prejudice is caused to the members of any community.
The high court directed Mr Ranjan to place within two days five such orders or letters, in a sealed cover, which he or his predecessor has issued on receiving a complaint or representation and listed the matter for further hearing on August 7.
As per a news report, on the basis of which the petition was filed, the Special CP passed an order on July 8 stating that the arrest of "some Hindu youth" from riot-hit area in northeast Delhi had led to a "degree of resentment among the Hindu community" and "due care and precaution" must be taken while making arrests.
It claimed that the senior police officer's order said, "community representatives are alleging that these arrests are made without any evidence and are even insinuating that such arrests are being made for some personal reasons".
It also claimed that the police officer's order stated: "Due care and precaution be taken while arresting any person. All evidences including direct and technical evidences be properly analysed and that all the arrests are backed by sufficient evidence be ensured. No arbitrary arrest should be made in any case and all evidences must be discussed with Special PPs (public prosecutors) assigned for each case."
The order purportedly added: "Supervisory officers ACPs/DCPs - SIT & Additional CP/Crime (Headquarters) may guide the IOs (investigating officers) suitably."
During the hearing, the high court said there is no dispute that senior officers have to guide the juniors as per the current ground situation.
The court made it clear that whether notice is to be issued on the petition or not will be decided after pursuing the letters to be placed by the police.
When advocate Amit Mahajan, representing the Delhi Police, contended that the petition was "highly mischievous", the judge shot back "this letter (of special CP) is also mischievous. Tell me what was the need to issue this letter."
The high court was hearing a petition filed by Sahil Parvez, whose father was shot dead allegedly by communal rioters near his home, and Mohd Saeed Salmani, whose elderly mother was allegedly lynched in her house by rioters, seeking quashing of a July 8 order issued by Special Commissioner of Delhi Police (Crime and Economic Offences Wing).
Advocate Mehmood Pracha, representing the petitioners, claimed that the July 8 order amounts to an unlawful and illegal interference in the performance of investigative functions by police officers.
He argued that the police order was against the law and there was no provision in the law to pass such an order. "They (police) are sending this message that the riot was between two communities, which is shocking," he said.
The high court had earlier asked the police to place on record the order passed by the special CP and had observed that no action can be taken based on a news report, on which the petition was filed, unless some authenticity to the claims is provided.
The petition claimed, "Clearly under pressure from these efforts, respondent no.4 (Special CP) issued an order dated July 8 observing that there was a degree of resentment in the Hindu community against the arrest of certain Hindu persons, and directing investigating officers that they should be careful in the future when making arrests, and that arrests of persons should be made only after discussion of the evidence with special public prosecutors who have been illegally appointed to represent the police in these cases."
The petition has arrayed Centre, Delhi government, Delhi Police Commissioner, its Special CP, Deputy Commissioner of Police (North East) and Station House Officers of Police Stations Jafrabad and Bhajanpura in North East Delhi.
Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after violence between citizenship law supporters and protesters spiralled out of control, leaving at least 53 people dead and around 200 injured.