Saturday, May 18, 2024

‘Flaws in probe’: Delhi court acquits 2 AAP leaders of defying Covid-19 rules charge

A Delhi court has acquitted two Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders of the charge of not adhering to orders issued by a public servant regarding the enforcement of Covid-19 protocols, stating that there were numerous flaws in the investigation conducted.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vidhi Gupta Anand pointed out several deficiencies in the probe conducted by the investigating officer (IO), such as the failure to gather statements from public witnesses, the absence of a site plan, and the failure to record statements from the SHO and the ACP concerned, and other eyewitnesses.

Patel Nagar MLA Raaj Kumar Anand and councillor Ankush Narang were accused of participating in a protest near the residence of Delhi BJP chief Aadesh Gupta in West Patel Nagar on February 26 of the previous year without prior permission, failing to maintain social distancing or wear masks.

During the alleged protest, an order issued by the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Patel Nagar, was in effect.

The prosecution argued that even though social restrictions had been lifted due to a decline in Covid-19 cases, the wearing of masks and adherence to social distancing, as mandated by the National Directives for COVID Management, were still required.

The court also criticised the failure to include the available video evidence of the incident in the court record, questioning the IO’s explanation for this omission.

It noted that these lapses had severely damaged the prosecution’s case to the point where it was “beyond repairs”.

It stated that the presence of the accused at the scene was not proven, and there was a lack of evidence regarding the publication or communication of the ACP’s order.

The court highlighted contradictions in the testimonies of three public witnesses, raising doubts about their credibility.

It noted discrepancies in the estimates of the number of participants in the protest and criticisedd the fact that only two individuals had been accused despite varying witness accounts.

“There is no specific number of the persons who participated in the protest march. While one witness says it would be around 50-60 persons, the other says that it would be around 100-150 persons and despite that, only two persons have been made accused in this matter,” the ACMM said.

Due to these reasons, the court held that the prosecution had failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, both accused individuals were declared not guilty and acquitted of the offence under Indian Penal Code Sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 34 (common intention).

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