Herald View: A fair trial is like waiting for Godot
If being in touch with alleged rioters, remotely, fleetingly or for a legitimate purpose, is evidence of complicity, Delhi Police will have a lot to answer
The law, we are told, always take its course, that courts always dispense justice and police always does a professional, unbiased investigation. But police in which country other than India files charge sheets and annexures running into 17,500 pages on a single case even while claiming that the evidence is ‘digital’ and ‘technical’? Agencies are known to have filed 70,000 pages or more by way of charge sheets in some cases, ensuring that no court is able to study them closely enough. The voluminous paperwork makes it look that agencies have a cast-iron case. This is also done to intimidate the accused and their lawyers. While police dip into public money, the accused are left to fend for themselves. This is sometimes designed to delay the trial and lead to multiple adjournments. Not surprisingly, each criminal trial takes several years to resolve. Judges come and go, retire, are transferred or pass away. Cases then resume from scratch.
Complainants, Investigating Officers and witnesses also pass away or move out of town. The process is not fair and is not meant to conclude a speedy trial. One more charge sheet against 15 people accused of engineering Delhi riots in February this year was filed this week and the documents were taken to the court in two steel trunks. All the 15 accused had protested against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), passed by Parliament in December last year and which had triggered protests across the country. The charge sheets give the impression that those who spoke in favour of the controversial law and threatened violence against the protestors had no role to play, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
That Delhi Police and Intelligence agencies failed to get a whiff of the alleged conspiracy allegedly brewing for two months is shocking enough. AntiCAA protestors did nothing to hide their identity and stood up, spoke and protested publicly against the wholly unnecessary law, for which the central government is yet to frame the rules. This should have made it easy for Delhi Police to identify them and keep them under watch with ‘scientific surveillance’ and monitoring of social media. The supporters of the law too did not hide their hostility and threatened the protestors with violence. Once again Delhi Police should have had no difficulty identifying, snooping and collecting ‘intelligence’. The failure to prevent the riots, therefore, is an enigma that remains to be explained.
The role of a large section of the Delhi Police, who were seen to be colluding with rioters, is another part of the puzzle that remains to be satisfactorily resolved. If being in touch with alleged rioters, remotely, fleetingly or for a legitimate purpose, is evidence of complicity, Delhi Police will have a lot to answer. But then, who will investigate the investigator? Even more importantly, who will pay for such an uphill mission and who can possibly spare the time? Retired IPS officers have expressed their anguish and pointed out flaws in the investigation. A decorated officer like Julio Ribeiro wrote a letter to the Police Commissioner of Delhi to ensure an unbiased probe. But who will question the icy reply that the investigation has been professional and scientific, that the number of the arrested are equally divided between the ‘two communities’ and that twice as many FIR’s were registered on the complaint of the minority community? A speedy, time-bound trial alone can answer the questions.