Justice Subramonium Prasad of the Delhi High Court, while denying bail to riot accused Mohd. Ibrahim, has held that the Delhi riots of 2020 did not take place in the spur of the moment but, 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 also noted that "The systematic disconnection and destruction of the CCTV cameras also confirms the existence of a preplanned and pre-meditated conspiracy to disturb law and order in the city. This is also evident from the fact that innumerable rioters ruthlessly descended with sticks, dandas, bats etc. upon a hopelessly outnumbered cohort of police officials."
The Court observed that individual liberty cannot be misused in a manner that threatens the very fabric of the civilized society by attempting to destabilise it and cause hurt to other persons.
The Petitioner had moved the High Court seeking bail in the FIR registered against him for offences punishable under Sections 186/353/332/323/147/148/149/336/427/302 of the Indian Penal Code, and Sections 3/4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 (PDPP Act).
Mohd Ibrahim, the Petitioner, is charged with the murder of Head Constable Ratan Lal during the North East Delhi Riots in 2020.
The prosecution argued that on 24.02.2020 in North East Delhi, the protestors were carrying sticks, baseball sticks, iron rods, and stones despite receiving a warning from the police. The protestors started pelting stones at the police officials and beat them and passersby with the aforesaid weapons, which were hidden. Due to this, many police officials received grievous injuries and out of them, the Head Constable Rattan Lal was declared dead due to bullet injury.
The counsel appearing for the Petitioner contended that the Head Constable died because of bullet injury from police firing and not because of a sword injury. The prosecution had argued that the Petitioner is seen in CCTV footage leading other rioters while holding a sword in his hand. It was also argued that the Petitioner could not be seen in any of the footage of the CCTVs such that it could be established that he was present at the scene of the crime and hence a case cannot be made out against him under section 149 read section 302 IPC.
It was further contended by the Petitioner that the weapon carried by him was only for self-defence and not with the intention to participate in the riots. Additionally, the counsel argued that the police officials had conducted the investigations with mala fide intentions and had illegally roped in those who were only protecting their neighbourhoods.
The Respondent (State NCT of Delhi) presented videos before the Court, that were found during the course of the investigation, which shows the petitioner wielding a sward and leading other rioters. The SPP appearing on behalf of the State pointed out that the rioters had dislocated and deactivated CCTV cameras in a synchronized and planned manner.
The Assistant Solicitor General S. V. Raju appearing on behalf of the prosecution further argued that the Trial Court had already dismissed the bail application of the Petitioner and the order of the Court did not contain any legal infirmities. Also, the addition of the offence under section 302 IPC meant that the bail to the Petitioner should not be granted, pleaded the Respondent. It was also contended by the ASG that conspiracy was pre-planned in order to instigate violence and therefore there was meeting of minds due to which Section 149 and Section 120B are attracted.
The question that the Court considered was whether a case for criminal conspiracy for an allegation of murder, i.e. Section 120B IPC read with Section 302, is made out against the Petitioner.
The High Court while referring to the various precedents held, "in order to contend the application of criminal conspiracy under Section 120-B and for an indictable offence to be accomplished, there is no requirement for an overt act to be done in furtherance of the conspiracy. It is the common design which gains utmost importance, and the conspiracy is held to be continued and renewed with regard to all its members wherever and whenever any member of the conspiracy acts in furtherance of this common design. There is also emphasis which is placed on the encouragement and support which co-conspirators render to such enterprises because in the absence of the same, accomplishing such a common design would otherwise be impossible. Furthermore, in order to discern the complicity of the accused, one needs to examine the circumstances before, during and after the occurrence."
"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," observed the Court.
The Court held, "The argument of the Counsel for the Petitioner that the sword being carried by the Petitioner was merely for self-defence of the Petitioner in a bid to protect himself and his family does not hold any water as the video footage places the Petitioner 1.6 kilometres away from his residence and does not reveal any immediate impending harm to the Petitioner."
"Furthermore, the Petitioner does not satisfy the ingredients to claim bail on ground of parity with the co-accused of the Petitioner who have been enlarged on bail," the Judge opined.
The Court further held that even though the Petitioner was not seen at the Scene of Crime but he was a part of the mob to instigate violence and inflict damage.
"This Court has previously opined on the importance of personal liberty in a democratic polity, but it is to be categorically noted 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. In light of this, the footage of the Petitioner with the sword is quite egregious, and is therefore sufficient to keep the Petitioner in custody," opined the Court.
Accordingly, the Court dismissed the bail application of the Petitioner.