2020 Delhi riots: Court acquits 9 accused of arson, vandalism

The Gokalpuri police station had registered an FIR against Mohammed Shahnawaz, Mohammed Shoaib, Shahrukh, Rashid, Azad, Ashraf Ali, Parvez, Mohammed Faisal, and Rashid.

New Delhi: A court here has acquitted nine accused people of all charges, including rioting, vandalism, and arson, during the 2020 Delhi riots, saying they were entitled to the benefit of the doubt.

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Additional Sessions Judge Pulastya Pramachala was hearing a case against the accused, who were accused of being a part of a riotous mob that torched a godown and some vehicles in Shiv Vihar here during the communal riots on February 25.

Noting the evidence before it, the court said the incident of vandalism and arson at the godown was established.

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The court underlined that the prosecution’s case hinged on the testimonies of two police officials, an assistant sub-inspector (ASI), and a head constable (HC).

It said the ASI mentioned the names of the accused, on the plea that he had known them since before the alleged incident. But later the police official said that he only knew the names of three accused people.

“Forgetting a fact is much different from wrongly asserting a fact. Without having knowledge of a fact, one cannot assert it, and on the other hand, despite having knowledge of a fact, one can forget it and may come up with a wrong description of such a fact,” the court said.

“Therefore, it is improbable that a person would know the name of someone at one point in time, but at a subsequent point in time, he would not know his name. He can forget such name, but it cannot be said by that person that he did not know such names at all,” it added.

The court observed that if vicarious liability was to be fixed for the nine accused under the penal provisions for being a part of an unlawful assembly, then their continuous presence in the mob till the time of the incident had to be established with clarity.

But the head constable’s testimony did not make it clear whether he had seen all the nine accused as part of the riotous mob from morning till the incident which took place at night.

“This question is important because there can be one possibility that accused persons became part of this riotous mob, remained in the mob for some time, and thereafter, went away,” the court said.

It said that based on the possibility that the accused persons were not a part of the mob, they were “entitled to benefit of doubt.”

The court acquitted all accused, saying charges against them were not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Gokalpuri police station had registered an FIR against Mohammed Shahnawaz, Mohammed Shoaib, Shahrukh, Rashid, Azad, Ashraf Ali, Parvez, Mohammed Faisal, and Rashid.

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