While framing charges in a murder and rioting case related to the Delhi Riots of 2020, a Delhi Court on Thursday remarked that the prevailing communal tension in the area made it difficult for the police to trace “shocked and traumatized” witnesses [State v. Lakhpat Rajora & Ors].
Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Yadav also observed that there was enough material on record to frame charges against the accused persons under the requisite sections.
The order on a charge, therefore, stated,
Complainant Saleem Kassar had seen his elder brother being shot dead and his house being burnt by the riotous mob, so it was natural for him to get shattered and shocked. However, by the passage of time, after gaining some composure and confidence, he has not only given a blow-by-blow account of the incident but has also categorically identified accused Lakhpat Rajora.
It was alleged that a mob fatally shot down the complainant's elder brother Mohd Anwar and burnt his body. The accused - Rajora, Yogesh, Kuldeep Sain, Lalit, and Kuldeep - were accordingly put on trial after they pleaded not guilty.
While noting the delay in recording the statements of public witnesses in the matter, the Court said that it couldn’t lose sight of the fact that on account of prevailing communal tension in the area, it was very difficult for the investigating agency to trace the eyewitnesses.
it added that people were so shocked and traumatized that it took several days for them to muster the courage to come out and report the matter to the police.
The complainant’s statement was found to have been corroborated with the statements of his son and a protected witness.
The court pointed out that at this stage, their aforesaid statements cannot be brushed aside/discarded merely because there has been some delay in recording thereof or that the complainant did not specifically name/identify the accused persons in his initial written complaint made to the police. This is not the appropriate stage to dwell upon the issue of delay in recording the statements of aforesaid public witnesses and the same would be seen during the course of the trial.
The defense counsel sought discharge of his client, asserting that the accused persons had been framed. It was contended that there was no electronic evidence to prove their presence at the scene of the crime at the time of the incident in question.
The Court found that the call data records (CDR) showed that the accused persons were in or around the scene of the alleged crime, prima facie indicating that they were out of their routine locations.
The order stated that the defendant was taken by them that since they are residents of the same area/locality and therefore, their CDR location is being found at or around the spot/SOC is of little help to them at this stage.
Special Public Prosecutor Manoj Chaudhary represented the State. Advocate Vimal Tiwari appeared for Lalit, Lakhpat, and Kuldeep Sain; Advocate Sanjay Gupta represented accused Kuldeep, and Advocate Dinesh Tiwari represented Yogesh.