Thursday 26 May 2022
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Police take rioters to court as though taking for a walk

In another damning image, the commissioner of Delhi Police appears before reporters, wearing what looks like a cricket helmet, suggesting the force lacks proper riot gear

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Visuals of Delhi Police personnel — some in plain clothes — grabbing the hands of some riot suspects while putting them in vans, to be taken to custody and then produced in a court, have surprised many social media users, as no elaborate arrangement seems to be in place. The cops looked like taking the suspects for a casual walk.

Social media users found another awkward thing about the police force in Delhi today when the commissioner appeared before a group of reporters, wearing what looked like a helmet worn by batsmen in cricket. Many wondered whether Delhi Police did not even have proper riot gear to face a situation of the type witnessed yesterday when Muslims in Jahangirpuri attacked a Hanuman Jayanti Shobhayatra.

Police defend procedure

When asked why the police were so ill-prepared or ill-equipped to face riots, an officer under the condition of anonymity said the courts do not allow handcuffing those arrested unless in a one-off case the suspect has a record of fleeing from custody.

In Sunil Batra versus Delhi Administration -AIR 1978 SC 1675, the Supreme Court held that Article 21, the Supreme Court held that Article 21 forbade any deprivation of personal liberty except in accordance with the procedure established by law and curtailment of personal; liberty to such an extent as to be a negation of it would constitute deprivation.

In the case of Prem Shankar Shukla versus Delhi Administration -AIR 1980 SC 1535, the court examined the rationale behind fetters and held that prima facie handcuffing is inhuman and hence unreasonable as well as arbitrary in absence of fair procedure and objective monitoring.

“To prevent the escape of an under-trial is in public interest, reasonable, just and cannot, by itself be castigated. But to bind a man hand and foot, fetter his limbs with hoops of steel, shuffle him along in the streets and stand him for hours in the courts is to torture him, defile his dignity, vulgarise society and foul the soul of our Constitutional culture”

The court observed that when there is no compulsive need to fetter a person’s limbs it is sadistic, capricious, despotic and demoralising to humble a man by manacling him. Thus, the court concluded that handcuffs must be the last refuge and not a routine regimen.

“Also, a cricket helmet is more functional,” the officer said, “the helmet that comes with the riot gear makes head movements difficult.”

The Delhi situation

There was heavy police deployment, though, and now the situation in northwest Delhi’s Jahangirpuri is tense but under control. Clashes had broken out between Muslim attackers and retaliatory force during a Hanuman Jayanti procession yesterday.

The Muslims had hurled stones at the procession while those in the procession hit back. Eight police personnel and a civilian were injured in the clashes as per latest information. Police arrested 14 suspects initially.

The total number of arrests has now risen to 20, including that of two minors, said Usha Rangani, DCP North-West, Delhi Police. “Three firearms and five swords have been recovered from the possession of the suspects. Further investigations underway,” the officer said.

The Rohini court in Delhi ordered Ansar and Aslam, the two main accused in the Jahangirpuri violence case, to be sent to police custody for a day while it remanded 12 other accused to judicial custody for 14 days.

Presenting its case in the court, Delhi Police said that Aslam and Ansar had prior knowledge that the Hanuman Jayanti procession would pass through the area. “They got to know about the Shobhayatra on 15 April and built up this conspiracy. We have to go through the CCTV footage and identify others involved in this case,” the police submitted.

Ansar is accused of being the mastermind of the Muslim attack on Hindus while Aslam allegedly opened fire with his pistol during the mêlée. According to the police, Ansar was previously arrested in two cases of assault.

The police have now tightened security across Delhi. The cops are on patrol in some communally sensitive (read “Muslim dominated”) areas.

Meanwhile, reports of stone-pelting and clashes have surfaced also from Muslim-majority areas of Andhra Pradesh’s District Kurnool, Karnataka’s District Hubli and Uttarakhand.

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