Delhi High Court Restrains Delhi Police From Issuing Contentious Statement

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Pinjra Tod activist Devangana Kalita approached the High Court of Delhi to issue directions to the Delhi Police. The order has come in the form of a criminal writ. It is a request to not leak any claims of pending investigations to the media until the trial of the case begins.

Facts of the Case

The Petitioner, Devangana Kalita is a student in the M. Phil-Ph.D Program at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The Petitioner is accused under IPC, Arms Act, and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984. The impugned press note had stated charges against the Petitioner of hatching a conspiracy. This is apropos of the riots in the Jafrabad area of the northeast district of Delhi. The press note also mentions that the Petitioner has a connection to the ‘India Against Hate’ group. Since a WhatsApp message on her phone revealed the conspiracy and the extent of preparation for causing riots in Delhi. 

In the present Petition, Kalita also demands to set aside the allegations put on by the Delhi police in the press note on June 02, 2020. 

Petitioner’s Argument

Adit Pujari appeared for the Petitioner. He argued that the said press note of the Delhi Police is an attempt to prejudice the Petitioner’s right to a fair trial. Hence, it violates Article 21 of the Constitution.

He further said that the circulation of the disputed note and selective leaking of the contents of the charge sheet had caused huge damage. Not only to the Petitioner’s reputation but also her fundamental right to a fair trial. Hence, it has weakened the presumption of her innocence.

Mr. Pujara then relied on a judgment held in Romila Thapar v. Union of India: (2018) 10 SCC 753. In this, the Court has restrained respondents from making such selective leaks until the conclusion of the trial.

Respondent’s Argument

Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi appeared for the Delhi Police. He defended the press note by contending that the same got issued in response to a campaign run by the Pinjra Tod group. They were doing a campaign on social media against the investigation by the Delhi Police.

Mr. Lekhi further submitted that it was not the intention of the Delhi Police to run a media trial. And this was evident from the fact that the Delhi Police had issued only one note (and not multiple notes) mentioning the petitioner’s name.

Court’s Observation

  1. The allegations in the press note were ‘faithfully lifted’ from one of the charge sheets filed in a case related to the Delhi riots.
  2. The said press note was not ‘selectively leaked’ to the media. The Public Relations Officer circulated it to around 400 media outlets.

Court’s Order

While evaluating the submissions, the Court relied upon the judgment of Justice D Y Chandrachud in Romila Thapar v. Union of India which stated:

“The use of the electronic media by the investigating arm of the State to influence public opinion during the pendency of an investigation subverts the fairness of the investigation. The police are not adjudicators nor do they pronounce upon guilt.”

Hence, The Single Bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru restrained the Delhi Police from issuing such controversial statements.


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