Current AffairsIndia

Media leaks need to be controlled for fairness to accused, purity of investigation: Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court on Monday pulled up the Delhi Police for its “half-baked” vigilance enquiry into how Delhi riots accused, Asif Iqbal Tanha’s alleged disclosure statement was leaked to media before filing of chargesheet (Asif Iqbal Tanha vs State).

A single-judge Bench of Justice Mukta Gupta, therefore, sought the presence of Special Commissioner of Police (Vigilance), Delhi before it.

“Your Special CP will come and explain how it (the allegation of leak) is unsubstantiated. The allegation is substantiated. If you cannot do it in your vigilance enquiry, orders will have to be passed (by the court),” the Court ordered.

The counsel for Delhi Police, advocate Amit Mahajan conceded that the leak was very “undesirable” and even the investigating agency was aggrieved by it.

“These (media leaks) need to be controlled for fairness to accused, fairness to investigation and purity of investigation,” the Court made it clear.

The Court also clarified that it was not saying that Delhi Police was “solely” responsible for the leak. It nonetheless observed that the authorities must now take action as per law, including calling private parties to be part of the vigilance enquiry.

“Not saying that you’re solely responsible. You are saying that the file went to GNCTD and MHA. They are taken by your officer by hand and dealt by senior IAS officers. You have to find out when leak took place… It is also theft… It is your property. You are entitled to take action in law,” it said.

As Mahajan raised concerns with respect to a backlash against authorities in case of action against journalists, the Court remarked that there was no bar on action against anyone when there has been a commission of an offence.

During the hearing, the Court also remarked that the disclosure statement was “not a document lying on the road“, else the officer concerned would be guilty of negligence.

In his petition filed last year, Tanha had alleged that the police officials leaked his purported disclosure statement, which was recorded during the investigation, to the media.

He stated that based on the leaked information, OpIndia and Zee Media carried news reports on the establishment of his guilt.

While stating that the statement had no evidentiary value, Tanha raised objections against the news reports.

Tanha maintained that he was forced to sign papers in police custody.

Appearing for Tanha, advocate Siddharth Aggarwal today argued that the issue of leaks to media was being faced across the board, by all accused in the case.

“Supplementary chargesheet was filed in the matter and media has passages after passages.Whatever be their (Police) position, they should come and give assistance to the Court,” he said.

Aggarwal also took the Court through the order passed by a coordinate bench of the High Court in a similar petition preferred by co-accused, Devangana Kalita.

In the order, a direction was passed to Delhi Police, restraining them from issuing statements and communications naming her in relation to the case, till the commencement of trial.

The Court was also informed that the erstwhile bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru had asked the Delhi Police to, in fact, complete its vigilance enquiry in the matter.

During the hearing, the Court also interacted with a Delhi Police officer on the status of vigilance enquiry and also perused the relevant record.

Noticing that only four-five statements had been recorded over a period of four months, the Court remarked,

“ does not say anything. Do you want me to say it is a useless piece of paper? Should i say it is in contempt of court? The file does not even show who conducted the vigilance enquiry.”

The Court has now asked Aggarwal to state the criminal offences that arise out of the media leak.

The matter would be heard next on March 5.


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