2020 Delhi riots: Court acquits 2 of charges of rioting, arson

Court said that two of complainants turned hostile and denied having identified accused persons

New Delhi: A court here on Friday acquitted two people of all charges connected to the 2020 northeast Delhi riots, saying “presumption cannot take the place of evidence”.

The court was hearing a case against accused Ranjeet Singh Rana and Ravi Singh who were accused of being part of a riotous mob that torched a car on February 24, 2020 and committed arson and vandalism in two salons or shops in the Karawal Nagar area the next day.

“I find that charges levelled against the accused persons in this case are not proved beyond doubt. Hence, accused persons…are acquitted of all the charges levelled against them in this case,” additional sessions judge Pulastya Pramachala said.

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The judge said that on the basis of the testimony of the person who was driving the car, it could be held that a riotous mob had torched it, but the prosecution evidence fell short of giving an exact account of the facts regarding the two other incidents.

“…On close scrutiny of evidences, I find that prosecution could show involvement of mob only in respect of the incident of damage caused to the car of Prosecution Witness 1 (person driving the car) and it is basically on the basis of (his) unrebutted testimony…that factum of burning his car by an unlawful assembly is established,” the judge said.

Also, the prosecution did not submit the requisite certificates under Section 65B of the Evidence Act for the two shops and without such certificate, digitally taken photographs were not admissible as evidence, the judge said.

“This court had given direction, for all the cases of riots, to obtain such certificates from the persons concerned…and these directions were even sent to higher officers of the police…. All prosecutors were also time and again reminded about such legal requirements, but as far as this case is concerned, no such steps were taken by the investigating officer (IO),” the judge said.

“I find that the prosecution has left it for making guesses and presumptions only to assume that there had been an unlawful assembly behind these two incidents,” the judge added.

Regarding the identity of the accused persons as part of the riotous mob, the court said that two of the complainants turned hostile and denied having identified the accused persons.

Another eyewitness, a head constable, could not vouch for involvement of the accused persons as he had not seen the incidents, the court said.

It said the police official stated that he saw both the accused present at some distance there and thus it was only the prosecution’s presumption that both accused were involved in the incidents.

“However, presumption cannot take the place of evidence. Prosecution witness 1 was the best person to identify the accused persons, if they were involved in the attack upon his car and when (he) did not identify the accused persons, then presumptions of prosecution cannot be basis to hold that both accused were members of that mob,” the court said.

“Thus, I find that prosecution could not prove that incidents at the salons…were caused by an unlawful assembly. Prosecution also could not prove that both the accused persons were involved in any of the three incidents probed in this case,” the judge said.

The Karawal Nagar police station had registered an FIR against the two accused under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including rioting, on the basis of three complaints.

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