NEW DELHI, JANUARY 9: Special investigation teams (SIT) formed by the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police, which is probing last Sunday’s mob attack at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), failed to make any headway in 2 previous high-profile cases involving students ~ the 2016 disappearance of JNU student Najeeb Ahmad, and the violent clashes outside Ramjas College in 2017.
The Najeeb case was eventually transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after the Crime Branch investigation failed to make any headway. In the Ramjas case, the Crime Branch is yet to file a charge sheet or arrest a single person nearly 3 years after the incident. In all 3 cases, members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), were among the alleged perpetrators of the crimes.
The Crime Branch, which comprises highly specialised officers with superior investigation skills, is probing the violence that broke out at JNU around 6 p.m. on Sunday, when masked assailants, armed with sticks, rods and hammers, attacked students and teachers inside the campus and smashed hostel property.
At least 35 people were injured in the attack. The students’ union and several teachers have blamed the ABVP, which has rebuffed the charges and said Left-leaning members carried out the attack.
Crime Branch officers are part of the city police but unlike police personnel at stations, they are not engaged in daily law-and-order duties, and have fewer but sensitive cases to work on. Officers with better investigation skills and a good track record of solving cases are posted to the Crime Branch. Cases are transferred to the Crime Branch to boost the chances of them being solved.
But in 2 previous cases involving students, Crime Branch investigations did not bear fruit.
In February 2017, clashes broke out outside Delhi University’s Ramjas College after alleged ABVP workers disrupted a literary event at the north campus college, and thrashed students who supported speakers Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid, both JNU students at the time.
The violence left at least 25 persons with serious injuries, including 8 police personnel. Delhi Police lathi-charged protesters to quell the violence, which grabbed headlines and triggered nation-wide condemnation.
But police records show that the SIT is yet to arrest a single person or even file a charge sheet. Police are supposed to file a charge sheet within 3 months.
Delhi police spokesperson Anil Mittal said on Wednesday the police are in the final stage of the investigation in the 2017 Ramjas case, and will soon file a charge-sheet .
“We had to collect statements of many students and eyewitnesses who were present that day. During investigation, we collected multiple CCTV grabs and cell phone videos. We sent such clips for forensic examination. The report has finally come. We have identified the accused persons. We will be filing a charge-sheet against the persons very soon,” Mittal said.
The other case involves the disappearance of JNU student Najeeb Ahmad in October 2016, hours after a fight with a group of ABVP supporters, who denied any role in his disappearance.
Delhi Police transferred the case to the Crime Branch in December that year. But an SIT by the Crime Branch didn’t make much progress.
In May 2017, the Delhi High Court transferred the case from the Delhi Crime Branch to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The CBI, too, failed to find Ahmad and filed a closure report in October 2018.
But during its investigation, the CBI said a key witness in the case, who had allegedly claimed to have dropped Ahmad to the Jamia Millia Islamia campus on the day he went missing, told agency investigators that the Crime Branch forced him to make such a statement.
Delhi Police denied the allegations, and said that there was no need to coerce an auto driver to make a statement because he was not even an accused in the case.
In the last few months, many important cases ~ such as the Anaj Mandi fire where 45 people died last month, cases related to the pitched battle between lawyers and police at the Tis Hazari court complex in November, and clashes between police and anti-citizenship law protesters at Jamia Millia Islamia and Seelampur in December ~ were transferred to the Crime Branch.
All these cases are pending investigation.
A senior Delhi police officer, who did not want to be named, said that several cases transferred to the Crime Branch take time to solve because it often enters the investigation after weeks or months.
“Usually CBI or Crime Branch get cases after the local police have failed to get leads. The Crime Branch officers are better equipped than local staff but evidence and witnesses are lost after some time. The crucial time to find leads in any case is the first 24 hours,” the officer said.
Vikram Singh, who was Director General of the Uttar Pradesh Police between 2007 and 2009, said there is no reason to breach the investigation timeline just because a case is transferred to a different unit.
“The Crime Branch is also a part of the same police and its leadership… if one is transferring a case, there should still be a time set for the investigation. Maybe a 90-day period to file a charge-sheet. The case must be then sent to a fast-track court. Delhi Police is not short of talent; such cases must be solved to ensure that people continue to trust the force,” he said. (Courtesy: HT)