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Delhi riots larger conspiracy case: Defence counsel seek probe status, timeline of completion

Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal and Asif Iqbal Tanha, accused in the Delhi riots “larger conspiracy” case, Thursday approached a Delhi court and urged it to direct the Delhi Police to state on record the status of the investigation in the case. They further requested that the Delhi Police inform the court when the probe will be completed.

The three, who are out on bail, are among 17 accused in the case registered in 2020. The other accused are former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain; activist Umar Khalid; Khalid Saifi; ex-Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan; Safoora Zargar; Sharjeel Imam; Meeran Haider; Gulfisha Fatima; Shifa-Ur-Rehman; Shadab Ahmed; Tasleem Ahmed; Saleem Malik; Mohd. Saleem Khan; Athar Khan; and Faizal Khan.

The matter is being heard by Additional Sessions Judge Amitabh Rawat.

Representing Tanha, Advocate Sowjhanya Shankaran argued in court that the accused must be made aware of the concrete charges against them. “When my defence gets disclosed during arguments, they fill that hole using my arguments and file a different chargesheet,” she said.

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Shankaran said that it was unfair to file a supplementary chargesheet merely to fill loopholes in the investigation during the stage of charge. “It’s not difficult for investigating agencies to find evidence and fill loopholes, so it’s important for them to clarify the investigation status,” she added.

“Each chargesheet has a paragraph which says additional documents will be attached… each chargesheet says that it must be read with a prior chargesheet. This means they haven’t finished the investigation,” said Shankaran.

Relying on various judgments, the lawyer also argued that there were directions from higher courts that it’s incumbent on the magistrate to ask as to when the investigation will be completed and to defer the stage of charge till that is given. She also added that a ‘firm timeline’ must be given as to when the investigation will be completed.

Shankaran further complained that across each chargesheet, there was a gap ranging from 2 months to 1.5 years. “No investigating agency can take an unduly long time to complete the investigation… prosecution must not become persecution,” she added.

Advocate Adit S Pujari, representing Narwal and Kalita, also argued that the prosecution needs to crystallise its case in a chargesheet before arguments on charge begin. Citing various judgments, he further went on to argue that the police have to seek permission from the court to investigate further and to file supplementary chargesheets.

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“The chargesheets are being filed on the basis of material that they have in their possession, not new material which they’re finding,” said Pujari.

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“Let them show one Supreme Court judgment which says that they can keep material in their back pocket,” he added.

It was Pujari’s case that there has to be a closure to the conspiracy case. The counsel further argued that the court must take the view that is more lenient to the accused.

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The matter will now be heard on Monday when counsel appearing for accused Meeran Haider will make submissions before the court. After these submissions, Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad will commence submissions and arguments on behalf of the prosecution.

Get more updates on Delhi News Today. Also get Latest News Updates on G20 India Summit at The Indian Express.

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