Court acquits 135 people after 13-year trial (Lead)

July 16th, 2008 - 8:33 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) For 135 residents of a poor neighbourhood here, a 13-year ordeal ended Wednesday when a court acquitted them of rioting and assault charges levelled against them. Additional Sessions Judge Narinder Kumar acquitted all 135 people due to lack of evidence.

The case dates back to Jan 30, 1995, when the residents of J.J. Colony in northwest Delhi’s Wazirpur industrial area took out a procession to protest the death of a man who lived in the area.

They claimed he died after being hit by a constable. The police then charged the protesters with rioting and assault.

The final argument in the case concluded last week.

The police claim despite assurances of action, the protesters turned violent. The then Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Karnail Singh (now joint commissioner in Special Cell) ordered his men to fire. It left four people dead and over 20 seriously injured.

The oldest to be acquitted was 93-year-old Sohan Devi, who was 80 when the incident occurred.

Lawyers for the defendants, led by Akhilesh Kumar Pandey, said the police used excessive force and abused their official position. The residents were shot while retreating, the defence said.

Karnail Singh had reportedly claimed he broke his hand when someone from the mob threw a stone at him. But neither the doctor who examined him nor his x-ray report was produced in court, he contended.

Plus, despite the presence of so many people, no two witnesses could identify any of the accused as part of the mob that the police claim threatened to go out of control, which had led them to open fire.

The prosecution said the firing was necessary to prevent “danger to life and property” of residents of adjoining Ashok Vihar.

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