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Delhi riots: HC bars police from issuing press notes

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The Delhi High Court, here on Monday, restricted the police from issuing any press note regarding Devangana Kalita or any other accused in connection with the Delhi riots cases till the trial started.

The directions were issued to the Delhi Police by Justice Vibhu Bakhru, who said the cases concerning communal violence and riots were “sensitive”.

Kalita, currently in the judicial custody in the Tihar Jail in a Delhi riots case, had earlier moved the court, seeking direction to the Delhi Police to prevent any leak of allegations pertaining to the petitioner to the media pending investigation, and thereafter, during the trial.

Refuting the allegations, the Delhi Police said the press note released to the media was “not a selective leak” and was done to “save the people’s faith in the public institution.”

“It wasn’t a selective leak. The reason behind issuance of the press note was not to prejudice or harm the reputation of the accused (Kalita), but to save the people’s faith in the public institution (the Delhi Police),” Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi told the court.

The nature of the case and allegations against Kalita were not revealed by the police, but members of a certain group that disclosed said details on social media platforms, Lekhi added.

The court had pulled up the police over their recent affidavit, saying “this wasn’t the kind of affidavit the court expected.”

“It can’t be allowed to go on record unless someone takes responsibility of what is being said in this,” said Justice Bakhru. If the same affidavit remained, we would be testing averments made in it, he added.

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Pujari, representing the petitioner, had also raised questions over sharing of the said affidavit with the media.

Recently, the Delhi Police in the affidavit, filed by Amit Mahajan and Rajat Nair — special counsels appointed by the Delhi L-G Anil Baijal for Delhi riots cases, said Kalita herself had been guilty of frustrating a fair trial and impeding the probe against her by starting a media campaign to gain sympathy and create public opinion.

On June 11, the court restrained the Delhi Police from circulating information. “The respondent is restrained from issuing any such statements or circulating information regarding allegations and evidence allegedly collected against the petitioner or other accused, to any person, including the media or on social media platforms,” Justice Bakhru had said.

Initially, Kalita was arrested in connection with Jafrabad, north-east and Daryaganj violence cases. The Delhi Police filed a charge-sheet against her and co-accused Natasha in the Jafrabad case on June 2. Natasha and Kalita were involved in hatching the conspiracy to cause riots near Jafrabad Metro Station in Delhi, it said.

“They, also part of a larger conspiracy, were found to be connected to the ‘India Against Hate’ group and Umar Khalid. The message, found in the phone of an accused, on Whatsapp chat, reveals the conspiracy and the extent of preparation for causing riots,” the police said.

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