The Delhi government has approved the withdrawal of 17 cases filed by Delhi police against farmers protesting at the city borders against the three farm bills in 2020-21, including a case related to violence at the Red Fort during a gathering of tractors taken by the farmers on Republic Day last year, according to official documents seen by HT.
Apart from a few cases registered under serious sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the majority of the cases that were withdrawn were for non-compliance with legal instructions and breaches of Covid protocols, according to the documents.
Read also | Accused in the Red Fort violence, Deep Sidhu dies in a road accident
On January 28, 2022, Delhi Police wrote to Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal’s office recommending that 17 out of 54 complaints filed against protesting farmers should be withdrawn. “After a thorough review of these cases, which are at various stages of investigation/trial, it is found that out of the 54 cases registered, 17 cases can be considered for withdrawal of charges against the defendants after government approval in accordance to the law,” Delhi police said in the letter, which was among the documents seen by HT.
On February 24, at the annual Delhi Police press conference, Commissioner Rakesh Asthana said, “Of the 54 cases registered by the Delhi Police, related to the farmers’ protest, the investigation of five cases is completed and indictment filed, five cases have been marked as not found while 44 cases are under investigation.Delhi Police have written to Delhi Lieutenant Governor’s office requesting the removal of 17 cases.
LG’s office forwarded the letter from the Delhi Police to another Chief Secretary of the Delhi Government’s Home Ministry for consideration. The Home Ministry submitted the letter to Home Minister Satyendar Jain at 4 p.m. on February 16 for review and transmission to LG for approval. The Home Secretary sent the dossier to the Chief Minister on February 25, according to the movement of the dossier mentioned in the documents.
The chief minister’s office sent the file to the LG office on February 28. “LG approved the removal of all 17 cases the same day it received the CMO’s file on February 28,” said an LG office official who asked not to be named.
The Delhi government said on Tuesday that the charges had been withdrawn under Section 321 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.
Thousands of farmers had reached Delhi’s borders with Uttar Pradesh and Haryana in November 2020 to protest against the Three Farm Bills which aimed to deregulate agricultural trade. On January 26, 2021, the farmers staged a rally that quickly descended into chaos as protesters turned away from the pre-determined route, broke through police barricades, entered the city and fought pitched battles with police in the ITO intersection. Later, hundreds of them reached Red Fort where they fought with security personnel and vandalized the monument.
The farmers stayed at the city’s borders for just over a year and called off the Dec. 11, 2021 protest after the Center repealed the three laws.
Among the 17 cases the government has withdrawn is one filed against approximately 200-300 protesters who entered the Gyanpath area near Netaji Subhash Marg and attempted to force their way into the Red Fort through the gate of Lahori. The mob reportedly damaged ticket counters, door frame metal detectors and baggage scanners and the entire monument ticketing complex was vandalized. The case as FIR 98/2021 was filed at Kotwali Police Station on January 28, 2021 and has been forwarded to the Criminal Branch for investigation. The case was being investigated and no arrests had been made at the time Delhi Police recommended his removal.
A second case approved for removal was registered at Jyoti Nagar police station in northeast Delhi against protesting farmers who entered Delhi from Loni border (Delhi-UP border) with 150 to 175 tractors and allegedly attacked police officers. This case, FIR 38/2021, was filed on January 26, 2021 and was pending investigation by local law enforcement.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said the government should withdraw all cases related to the farmers’ unrest. “The government should approve the withdrawal of all cases. We are not demanding the withdrawal of cases related to heinous crimes such as a lynching that took place on October 15. We will contact the government and see why the other unrest related cases have not been withdrawn,” Tikait said. A Dalit man was found murdered at the Singhu border protest site on October 15. A group of Nihangs at the site later accepted responsibility for the murder.
Sidharth Luthra, former additional solicitor general and senior counsel, said the charges can be withdrawn under section 321 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. “Section 321 allows a prosecutor to file an application in the trial court to withdraw charges. The law is established that an attorney must apply his mind before making such a request. Likewise, the court must consider whether the request is made in good faith and in the interests of public order and justice before granting consent to withdraw from the cases,” Luthra said.