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Court acquits nine in 2020 Delhi riots case, gives them 'benefit of doubt'

The nine were accused of being part of a group that committed robbery and arson

[File] Security personnel inspect an area in northeast Delhi hit by communal violence | PTI [File] Security personnel inspect an area in northeast Delhi hit by communal violence | PTI

A court in Delhi on Saturday acquitted nine people accused of rioting and arson during the 2020 northeast Delhi riots, giving them the "benefit of doubt".

The nine people were accused of being members of an unlawful assembly that committed robbery and arson in a shop in the Chaman Park area on February 25, 2020.

The court observed the sole testimony of the prosecution witness, who was a head constable, cannot be sufficient to assume the accused were part of the mob.

"I find that charges levelled against all the accused persons in this case are not proved beyond doubt. Hence, accused are acquitted of all the charges levelled against them," Additional Sessions Judge Pulastya Pramachala said.

The Gokalpuri police station had registered the case against Mohd. Shahnawaz, Mohd. Shoaib, Shahrukh,Rashid, Azad, Ashraf Ali, Parvej, Mohd. Faisal and Rashid under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including rioting.

The court said the formation of an unlawful assembly along with rioting and arson committed by the mob was "well established."

It, however, noted that head constable Vipin was the sole witness to prove the identity of the accused persons. But despite knowing the details of the accused, the knowledge about their involvement was not formally recorded till April 7, 2020, the court said.

The court said no explanation was provided for the delay in passing on such crucial information to senior officers.

"Keeping in view such delay in disclosure of vital information being recorded, I find it desirable to apply the test of consistent testimony of more than one witness, in the present case also and applying that test, I hold that sole testimony of prosecution witness 9 (Head Constable Vipin) cannot be sufficient to assume the presence of accused persons herein in the mob," the judge said.

"In such a situation, accused persons are given the benefit of doubt," the judge added.

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