The Delhi High Court on Monday refused to grant bail to an accused in a case concerning the northeast Delhi riots of 2020, saying that there was a “preplanned and premeditated conspiracy to disturb law and order in the city” and events “did not take place in a spur of the moment”.
Justice Subramonium Prasad, while dealing with a bail application moved by one Mohammad Ibrahim in the case concerning the alleged murder of Delhi Police head constable Ratan Lal, observed that there was a systematic disconnection and destruction of the CCTV cameras in areas near the place of the incident and “innumerable rioters ruthlessly descended with sticks, ‘dandas’, bats, etc. upon a hopelessly outnumbered cohort of police officials”.
“The riots, which shook the National Capital of the country in February 2020, evidently did not take place in a spur of the moment, and the conduct of the protesters who are present in the video footage, which has been placed on record by the prosecution, visibly portrays that it was a calculated attempt to dislocate the functioning of the government as well as to disrupt the normal life of the people in the city,” the court said.
“The systematic disconnection and destruction of the CCTV cameras also confirm the existence of a pre-planned and premeditated conspiracy to disturb law and order in the city,” it added.
Dismissing the bail application of Ibrahim, the court stated that the available video footage showing the petitioner with the sword was “quite egregious” and sufficient to keep him in custody.
“A perusal of the material on record has revealed to the court that the petitioner has been identified on multiple CCTV footages, carrying a sword and instigating the crowd. The clinching evidence that tilts this court towards prolonging the incarceration of the petitioner is that the weapon, which is being carried by the petitioner, is capable of causing grievous injuries and/or death, and is prima facie a dangerous weapon,” the court stated.
The judge, while acknowledging the importance of personal liberty in a democratic polity, clarified that “individual liberty cannot be misused in a manner that threatens the very fabric of civilised society by attempting to destabilise it and cause hurt to other persons”.
“Even though the petitioner cannot be seen at the scene of crime, he was a part of the mob for the sole reason that the petitioner had consciously travelled 1.6km away from his neighbourhood with a sword, which could only be used to incite violence and inflict damage,” the court said.
The petitioner, Ibrahim, was arrested in December 2020 and has been in judicial custody since then.
He sought bail on the grounds that he never participated in any protest or the riots at any point in time and the place on record by the prosecution did not place him anywhere close to the scene of the crime.
The court, in a separate order, granted bail to one Saleem Khan, saying that in the absence of any material to show that he was a part of the unlawful assembly at the crime scene, the veracity of the allegations levelled against him can be tested during trial.