Delhi Riots: How A Delhi Police Investigating Officer Framed 9 Muslim Men For An Attack By A Hindu Mob

29 May 2024 13 min read  Share

A Delhi police investigating officer used planted witnesses and concocted statements to fabricate a case against nine Muslim men charged with setting fire to an eatery run by a Muslim man, which, a judge found, was attacked by the Hindu mob during the Delhi riots in February 2020. Dismissing the case in March this year, one of at least 60 cases to be so dismissed in four years, the judge said the statements were “artificially prepared”. The police have so far claimed this case was one of those that sparked the riots on 23 February 2020. Two-thirds of those killed in the riots were Muslim. Eighteen of the 20 accused of planning the violence are Muslim.

Tyre Market in Gokal Puri (Gokal Pur) which have been burnt in Delhi Riots. The market is very near to Gokal puri metro station and next to Dayalpur Police Station/ BANSWALHEAMANT, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Delhi: While discharging 11 Muslim men charged with rioting, criminal conspiracy and destruction of public property as communal violence was breaking out in northeast Delhi on 23 February 2020, a judge has found that the police had fabricated the case, using planted witnesses and concocted statements to frame nine of them. 

The police arrested the Muslim men for an attack on an eatery run by a Muslim man carried out by a Hindu mob that was chanting Jai Shri Ram; something the investigating officer (IO) from the Dayalpur police station, Hukum Singh, observed on the night of the violence but he still made a case against the Muslim men. 

Per the prosecution, two rival mobs were present at Sherpur Chowk for and against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.  The controversial law singled out and excluded undocumented Muslims from the path to citizenship, sparking nationwide protests opposed by the government of the Bharatiya Janata Party, right-wing groups and their supporters. 

Additional sessions judge Pulastya Pramchala of the Karkardooma district court observed there were two rival mobs present that night, and Singh himself was a witness to the Hindu mob attack at Mohd Mumtaz’s Sanjar Punjab Chicken Corner that was set on fire. 

“The nature of the mob at Sanjar Punjab Chicken Corner is explicit from the given description by Mohd Mumtaz. In all probability, it was a mob of persons from the Hindu community,” the judge wrote in his order dated 4 March 2024. 

“However, he did not specify the identity of that mob in his FIR and went in to investigate the case on such premise as if he himself was not aware of the identity of such mob. He might not have been able to identify any member of that mob but he could at least note the identity of that particular mob which was behind the arson in the shop of Mohd Mumtaz.”

The judge said that any of the two mobs could have gone on to vandalise property and set the vehicles on fire, and once again, the IO was a witness to the violence that unfolded as the rioters made their way to Chand Bagh pulia.

The judge said the IO should have a description of the mob at each place of incident. Instead of eyewitnesses—who were shown to give concocted statements—the IO could have asked the other eight complainants, six Hindus and two Muslims—for a description of the mob, but he never did and went ahead and arrested the Muslim men. 

“IO did not examine the other victims who had faced and seen the mob behind the incident with them viz. Ashok, Satish, and Rahul, to ask as to which particular mob had confronted them,” he said. “This was a major omission on the part of IO, especially when he had to find out the culprits behind the incident.”

With the exception of the planted eyewitnesses, the police had no evidence that placed the accused at the scene of the crime. 

Of the 11 accused, nine were identified by two police witnesses. As per statements recorded on 5 January 2021, they were committing arson and vandalising the properties of the Hindu community. 

The tenth accused was spotted carrying a lathi on his shoulder in a viral video, and he was provoking the other public to riot. The eleventh accused was also spotted carrying a danda in a viral video, and his call detail records (mobile phone location) placed him near the scene of the crime. 

On the two Muslim men who were arrested based on a video, the judge said a general piece of evidence to show their presence in a mob at some point in time at some place was not sufficient evidence. 

There was no evidence to support the claim that there was a criminal conspiracy between the accused. 

The State was represented by special public prosecutor Madhukar Pandey, who told Article 14 that he had written to the Delhi police about appealing the verdict. 

When we noted that the district court judge found no credibility in the police witnesses and found the mob that attacked the Sanjar Punjab Chicken Corner was Hindu, Pandey said, “That is his view. You will find out when we challenge it. I cannot comment further.” 

A Pattern

In February 2024, The Indian Express reported that four years since the riots, verdicts have been pronounced in 88 of the 695 cases of rioting, arson, and unlawful assembly filed by the district police. Sixty-eight resulted in acquittals (80%), split evenly between the two communities, due to poor investigation.

The reasons for acquittal included police identified the accused after considerable delay, contradictions in the statements of police witnesses or police officers, witnesses stated that they were “suffering from memory loss”, the court was doubtful that the police witnesses, who were the only eyewitnesses in the case, were present when the incident occurred, and the sole witness could have been tutored by the investigating officer.

“Absolutely evasive”, lackadaisical”, “callous”, “casual”, “farcical,” “painful to see,” and “misusing the judicial system” are some of the things that Delhi judges have said, Article 14 reported in 2021. 

However, the judges have not held any police officer responsible for fabricating cases that have wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of the wrongfully accused. In this case, too, the judge did not recommend prosecution or punishment for the investigating officer. 

“That is also a pattern. Look at Prabir’s case,”  said Supreme Court advocate Shah Rukh Alam, referring to Prabir Purkayastha, founder and editor of NewsClick, who was accused by the Delhi police of using Chinese funds to promote “anti-national propaganda” and booked under India’s counter-terrorism law. 

“The Supreme Court said his arrest was totally illegal but no rebuke. Nothing. He was inside for more than a year,” said Alam. 

Pursuing a case against an errant investigating officer would involve the court directing the state to file another case where the prosecution would have to show malafide or bad intent on the part of the officer, something that is hard to do and rarely attempted. 

Most of the accused in the Dayalpur case were young men.

Ritesh Dubey, defence lawyer to one of the accused, said his client was 21 years old when he was arrested. His father said he did not want to take any civil action against the state. 

“He was happy that his son was out. He does not want justice,” said Dubey. “What does that say about the majesty of law and authority of courts?”

“In all honesty, for me, the most shocking thing was how could a case like this see the light of the day. The IO had not even attempted to make a case,” said Dubey. 

“In my experience, shoddy investigation in Delhi Riots cases is the norm rather than the exception, but this shoddy investigation is outright audacity of the police mocking the law and courts. And frankly, they did succeed in mocking the system because no consequences visited upon the police,” he said. 

The other repeating pattern is the Delhi police accusing Muslims of crimes committed against Muslims in the Delhi riots. 

Fifty-three people were killed in the Delhi riots—two-thirds of them Muslim. But of the 20 people accused in the Delhi riots conspiracy case, which deals with who planned the riots, 18 are Muslim. 

“Most of the people who died were Muslim, most of the people who were injured were Muslim, most property that was damaged was Muslim, so where is the conspiracy?” said Alam. “The charges are you were mobilising Muslims, you were going to mosques, you were blocking streets. Where is the offence? You’ve managed to make Muslim mobilisation into a terror act without any substantive facts. There is no specific allegation that the protesting collective indulge in violence, and yet you got away with it.”

The attack on Sanjar Punjab Chicken Corner in Sherpur Chowk was also recorded in the chargesheet of the Delhi riots conspiracy case as a place from where the riots fanned out on the night of 23 February 2020. 

“All these cases had to be fabricated in a particular way to show there was a link between the conspiracy and actual cases of violence,” said Alam. 

Planted Witnesses  

The two police witnesses gave statements on 26 February 2020 and 28 February 2020, but they only identified the Muslim accused a year later in their statements on 5 January 2021.

The judge concluded that the statements the two witnesses gave on 28 February were “vague” because they never identified the accused that day. The Muslim men were arrested without any evidence. They had to give false statements a year later to make up for the lack of evidence. 

“It was possible for that reason that at that time IO did not have any evidence of identification of accused persons for the purpose of this case and they would have been arrested in this case without any such evidence. Subsequently, to cover up this lacuna statement dated 05.01.2021 would have been prepared,” the judge wrote.

“On the record, there is nothing to suggest that any of these two eyewitnesses had actually given any kind of information to police regarding the presence of accused persons at Sherpur Chowk, which suggests that statements of these two witnesses could have been artificially prepared,” he wrote.

The absence of anything specific about the violence on the night of 23 February 2020 and the attack on the  Sanjar Punjab Chicken Shop in the statements led the judge to believe the two police witnesses did not actually witness the attack. 

“If one carefully looks into the statement of Sachin and Deepak, it appears that the statement was made on general observation and without actually witnessing the incident at Sanjar Chicken shop,” said the judge. 

“Such omission confirms that the two eyewitnesses either did not see the incident at Sanjar Chicken shop particularly or their statement was artificially prepared in that respect. The statements of these two witnesses are neither probable nor do they stand before the complaint made by the actual victim, Mohd Mumtaz,” the judge said. 

The judge said that if the accused were the men who attacked Mumtaz’s shop, then the IO could have asked Mumtaz to identify them by conducting a verification parade, but he never did. 

Another falsehood was that the chargesheet in the case said the IO received “secret information” about the accused on 28 February 2020, which the defence lawyers said was contrary to the IO’s claim to have learnt about the accused from the eyewitness.

The judge agreed. 

Complainant Statement Tampered With 

In his complaint, Mohd Mumtaz, who ran Sanjar Punjab Chicken Corner, said that throughout the incident at his shop, the rioters were raising slogans of Jai Shree Ram

However, in a statement that was attributed to him, he said that 100 to 150 persons opposing the CAA attacked his shop. 

The judge said it appeared to be “artificially crafted”.

‘It does not appeal to logic and probability that persons in the mob of the Muslim community would raise a slogan if Jai Shree Ram or they would beat a Muslim person while acting as part of a mob in a communal riot between Hindu and Muslims. Therefore, the aforesaid addition made in the statement under 161 CrPC of Mohd Mumtaz does appear to be artificially crafted therein, as far as it relates to the describing nature of the mob entering into his shop as the one which was opposing the CAA. This addition is, therefore, to be ignored.”


On 23 February 2020, at 9:06 pm, Dayalpur police station received a PCR call regarding an incident at Punjab Chicken, Chandu Nagar, near Sherpur Chowk. 

ASI Hukum Singh prepared a complaint, mentioning that he found a mob of two different communities raising slogans against and in favour of the CAA. Singh appealed for calm, but both sides started pelting stones at each other. Some vehicles were set on fire, and window panes were broken. The scattered mobs reached Chand Bagh puliya and began pelting stones at each other until Singh and the police dispersed them. 

A chargesheet was filed against the ten Muslim accused on 27 April 2020. A supplementary chargesheet was filed in pleading with another Muslim man on 16 September 2020. Two more were filed on 11 February 2022 and 14 December 2023, respectively. These chargesheets included complaints by Mohd Mumtaz, who rented the chicken shop, and Subhash Chand, the Hindu landlord. 

Mumtaz said in his complaint that at around 8:00 pm, a mob of about 100-150 persons started pelting stones and attacked 20-25 customers eating there, beat him and his workers up, looted the cash, and set the shop on fire while chanting “Jai Shree Ram” the whole time. 

Mumtaz suffered loss of Rs 10-11 lakh in the incident. 

False Statements 

On 26 February 2020, police witness Sachin Kumar gave a statement saying that at about 9:00 pm on 23 February 2020, people from the Muslim community were raising slogans against CAA and rioting with bricks, stones, lathi, iron rods and petrol bombs. They were breaking window panes of vehicles and setting them on fire. They vandalised the Sanjar Punjab Chicken Shop fire along with other shops. They also rioted on the 24th and 25th. He had identified all of them, informed the IO of their physical appearance and said that he could recognise them. 

On 28 Feb 2020, Sachin gave a statement that said they had gathered at Sherpur Chowk at four in the morning, and he couldn’t sleep out of fear, so he called the police, who apprehended the rioters. 

Police witness Deepak gave verbatim statements.

Arrest memos of nine accused are from 28 February 2020 at 4:30 am. 

Both witnesses said the same thing on 5 Jan 2021. Sachin added that he visited the police station on 28 February and identified all those persons who rioted at Sherpur Chowk on 23 Feb 20202. He learned their names after their interrogation. 

According to Deepak, after the IO apprehended the accused and took them to the police station, they were arrested based on his identification. He learned their names during their interrogation. 

“In the statement dated 28.02.2020 neither was there reference to the total number of accused arrested by the IO nor was there any reference of their names. In fact, there was also no specific reference to the fact that these two witnesses had identified them as same persons who were involved in the riot at Sherpur Chowk on 23.02.2020,” the judge wrote.

“It is worth to note that the additional facts mentioned in the statement dated 05.02.2021 were existing on 28.02.2020 as well, and such facts could have been mentioned on 28.02.2020 itself by these two witnesses,” he wrote. 

Lawyers Also Alleged Police Torture 

Two defence lawyers argued that the police witnesses did not identify the accused on 28 February, nor were they arrested that day. Their clients were illegally detained by the police on 24 February 2020 and beaten.

One lawyer said significant injuries were found on the bodies of her two clients on 28 February, which showed in the Tihar medical records—evidence of custodial torture. 

Another lawyer argued that none of the complainants identified any of the accused.

The lawyers said the police could not produce CDRs—call detail records—to show their presence at the crime scene. No calls or messages were exchanged between any of the accused, and there was no evidence of criminal conspiracy.

No specific act of violence was attributed to any of the accused. 

(Betwa Sharma is the managing editor of Article 14.)

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