Friday, April 12, 2024

2020 Delhi riots: HC to hear Kalita’s plea for access to WhatsApp chats of cops, specific videos


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New Delhi, Jan 18: The Delhi High Court on Thursday posted for hearing on February 15 a petition filed by Devangana Kalita, who is seeking access to specific videos related to the CAA-NRC protests in the national Capital.

The court had, on November 16, 2023 issued a notice to the Delhi Police on petitions by Kalita seeking access to WhatsApp group chats of police officers along with specific videos related to the CAA-NRC protests in connection with two Delhi riots cases.

Kalita’s counsel Advocate Adit S Pujari submitted, “We are asking for the video so that we can argue on discharge plea, because there is no better evidence than video CCTV footage of what actually transpired. We have been enlarged on bail by a Division Bench of this court. The finding in the judgment was challenged before the Supreme Court, which was dismissed. We are now on bail.”

“We are concerned with all the electronic videos that have been recorded to whom they had given a tender to record these videos. It is their case that they cannot give the videos as it will demonstrate who all the other accused persons and their rights to privacy or right to do further investigation will be compromised,” he further submitted.

Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad for Delhi Police argued that the plea is not maintainable and said, “We’ll be filing a status report in the case. The fundamental question is that the petition is not maintainable.”

Kalita is concurrently seeking a stay on the arguments of charge in both riot cases (FIR 49 of 2020 and FIR 50 of 2020). She claims that the videos, allegedly commissioned by Delhi Police, will demonstrate her innocence and showcase her engagement in peaceful protests during the specified period.

A Bench of Justice Amit Bansal had earlier directed the Delhi Police to submit a status report or reply to the petitions.

According to Kalita’s counsel, the videos form part of the charge sheet against her, and their provision is crucial for her defence.

On the other side, SPP Madhukar Pandey, representing Delhi Police had said that Kalita’s accusations are not solely based on the videos and pointed out the ongoing investigation.

Pujari had further argued that the videos were necessary for Kalita to exercise her right to seek discharge from the cases.

Pandey had raised objections on the maintainability of the petitions, arguing that Kalita should have explored other available remedies instead of approaching the court under writ jurisdiction.

The defence had insisted on the importance of the videos as exculpatory evidence, while the prosecution asserted that the videos were not relied upon in the charge sheets.

Meanwhile, SPP Pandey had stated that the accused were still absconding, and the prosecution was conducting further investigations.

Kalita was previously granted bail by the Delhi High Court in June 2021, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in May.

In August, the trial court had refused to provide entire CCTV footage pertaining to the North-East Delhi area and WhatsApp chats of groups of police officers to Kalita in the UAPA case.

The accused in the case are Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam, Tahir Hussain, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Khalid Saifi, Isharat Jahan, Meeran Haider, Gulfisha Fatima, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Shadab Ahmed, Tasleem Ahmed, Saleem Malik, Mohd. Saleem Khan, Athar Khan, Safoora Zargar, Faizan Khan and Natasha Narwal.



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