New Delhi: As arrests by Delhi Police continue to be made in connection with the violence during the farmers’ tractor rally on January 26, families of those being arrested continue to struggle to access copies of the FIRs to seek legal remedies.
While the Delhi High Court last week ordered the release of the FIR copies, these haven’t been made available yet, say families of several of those arrested. Families and lawyers say the fundamental rights of the accused continue to be violated, adding that this showed “another pattern of arrests” that is emerging.
Notices have been sent to several persons under Section 160 and 91 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which pertains to investigations. However, when the accused are visiting the police, they are being arrested without the copy of the FIR being provided to the court or the families of the accused.
Gurvinder Singh has travelled all the way from his small village of Bangi Nihal Singh in Bathinda district of Punjab to find out the whereabouts of his 23-year-old brother, Gurpender. A total of seven men were arrested from their village on the night January 26 as they were about to reach Tikri border after the tractor parade, he says.
While some families have managed to get legal help, several others continue to look for legal support.
Speaking with NewsClick, Advocate Amarjeet Bhullar dealing with Gurpender’s case, said: “The FIR’s that we have been accessing are not happening via the official channel. Those who have connections are being able to use those to seek some remedies, approaching officers, running after crime branches etc, but officially the details have not been made available. This, despite the law mandating that FIRs need to be given to the district courts within 24 hours.”
In 2016, the Supreme Court had directed that FIRs must be uploaded within 24 hours of filing. The Court had allowed that in only some cases of “sensitive” nature these may not be uploaded. However, Section.207 of CrPC makes it mandatory that an FIR copy be provided to the accused.
Following the struggles of the arrested farmers’ families, the Delhi High Court had issued an order, asking the Delhi Police to upload the copy of the FIRs on their website. The court had taken cognisance of the matter in the context of four FIRs which had not been released from the Nangloi police station, an area which witnessed major violence on January 26.
NewsClick visited the Nangloi police station, where Amit Kumar, ATO said: “All cases are being taken to the crime branch, if someone is following the procedure, FIR can be given to them. There are certain ways in which these can be obtained. These were blocked as they pertain to some sensitive cases. We are authorising the appeal from the ACP and giving the FIR.”
While the police claim that one can apply to get the copy of the FIR, lawyers feel that the rights of the accused are being stifled. Bhullar alleged: “The police officials are aiming at pressurising the accused, and are ensuring that the accused are devoid of prompt legal help.”
Following a string of cases, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee has formed an extensive team to help the accused seek legal recourse. The committee is handling several cases.
Speaking with NewsClick, Virendra Pal Sandhu, an advocate associated with the group, said: “There are a total of 44 FIR’s and multiple persons have been arrested under each. Out of these, the list of 14 FIRs were released but the other crucial information on who is being arrested, where are they being arrested from and the copy of the FIR is not available. “
He said, the “authorities are stating that they are blocking these (FIRs) on the basis of these containing sensitive information. One needs to question what is this sensitive information that the police is claiming? To me, it is something which is not available in the public realm. When the events of January 26th are known to the world, why create a roadblock for legal remedies? By doing this, the authorities are putting an onus on those arrested to seek the FIR, while it is their first right.”
Lawyers said that if the police are to release the FIRs publically, it has been difficult to acquire them in the stipulated time window of 24-72 hours of the arrest.
Currently over 125 arrests have been made according to the Delhi Police list, but the number could be much higher.
Another worrying development, according to the lawyers, is the arrests being made after the issuing of summons under Section 160/91 of the Criminal Procedure Code, in the absence of an FIR. These sections usually pertain to eye-witnesses in an investigation, with Sec 160 pertaining to the attendance of someone who appears to be acquainted with the facts and circumstances of the case and Section 91 pertains to the issuing of summons or an order for the production of any document or thing if such production is necessary or desirable for the purpose of any investigation.
Ramesh Singh*, a resident of Delhi, was issued one such notice after the tractor rally. When he went to the Prashant Vihar crime branch situated in Rohini, he was arrested after questioning and reportedly sent off to Tihar central jail the next day.
Speaking with NewsClick, the lawyer who initially handled his case, on the condition of anonymity, said: “In some of the cases, cars are being traced and summons are being issued under Section 160/91, When one goes to the police station in good faith, they are arrested. When Ramesh* visited the crime branch to give his statement, he was kept at the branch overnight and sent to Tihar jail the next day.”
The lawyer said they were not given an FIR initially, and they later passed on the case to another lawyer, who may have tried to access the FIR. “In other cases, we have observed the pattern that the crime branch called on the victims to visit and give their statements a few times, after 2-3 visits they are being arrested, in an arbitrary manner, this as we still await FIRs,” the lawyer said.
NewsClick visited the Crime Branch, Prashant Vihar, wherein Satish Malik, an investigating officer, said: “We are not supposed to answer at this level, you have to approach the centralised level, which is our senior officer. We have arrested people here and are conducting investigations but we cannot divulge any further information.”
This new “pattern of arrests’, following the notices, has left many people scared, with some even clueless without legal support on how to proceed further.
Another person *Kirpal Singh hailing from Delhi was sent a notice by the police and the family is now fearing going to the police. Speaking to NewsClick, his partner said: “We have been sent the notice, too, my husband’s car was traced. He had gone Red Fort, like many others, to express his solidarity, my daughter has fallen severely ill and we are living in constant fear after the stories we have been hearing about arrests of many innocents.”
*Names changed on request.