Ankit Sharma Sharma
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District magistrates of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) and the Prosecuting Officer have rejected the plea by Yogi Adityanath government to withdraw 133 cases on 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. Out of these 133 cases, 89 are still pending in court, rest of them have either seen acquittals or sent for closure reports. The district magistrate has quoted “administrative reasons” for the rejection, as reported by Financial Express. In 2013, thousands were rendered homeless and many killed in the violence in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli.
In a letter addressed to the district magistrate (DM) of Muzaffarnagar, dated January 5, the Special Secretary of Uttar Pradesh Department of Justice, Raj Singh, had sought information on 13 points and asked whether the cases could be withdrawn in public interest.
As per News 18, Muzaffarnagar DM Rajiv Sharma has said “Under the constitutional process anyone can apply for a rollback of cases. This practice is being continued by this government and was used by the previous government as well. After a thorough investigation on 13 points by the police, we have recommended to the government that the withdrawal of cases will not be advisable on an administrative level.”
“There is a procedure in Criminal Procedure Code, wherein anyone who is booked under a criminal case, has to apply to the State government for withdrawal of his case. The government then seeks a report from the district administration which is prepared after close examination of reports that we receive from the police and prosecution. After this, a report citing our opinion is sent to the government. In this case, too, we were asked to send a report, which we have already sent,” said Sharma, as reported by The Times of India.
In April 2018, Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover, who represented some victims of Muzaffarnagar riots, has told the Wire, “Implicit in the grant of power under section 321 of the CrPC is that such withdrawal should be in the interest of justice. It is settled law that the court will allow withdrawal of prosecution only if it upholds the interest of justice,” said Grover.
Grover added, “In the case of the Muzaffarnagar riots, withdrawal of cases cannot be in the interest of justice because it is the job of the state to protect the right to life and property of all citizens, including Muslim victims who were targets of the communal violence.”
The pending cases are mostly related to hate speech, murder, attempt to murder, dacoity and arson. BJP MP Sanjeev Balyan, BJP MLAs Suresh Rana and Sangeet Singh Som, VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad) leader Sadhvi Prachi are among the accused in the incidents. 16 of such cases are registered under section 153 A (Charges of promoting enmity on religious grounds) and 2 cases under section 295 A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), as reported by Indian Express.
According to Scroll, in March, Muzaffarnagar BJP MP and former Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan said, “In the meeting with the chief minister in February, I requested him to consider the withdrawal of 179 cases, in which over 850 Hindus were held accused”.
Balyan, who is also one of the accused, further added, “The cases include those of arson, attempt to murder and damage of properties. No murder accused were on the list.”
A day after the rejection of the State government’s plea by the district magistrate, Balyan said that the State government had the final say in the said matter and not the district officials.
During the tenure of Samajwadi Party CM Akhilesh Yadav, Muzaffarnagar witnessed violent riots between Hindus and Muslims in August-September 2013. It resulted in at least 62 deaths, injured 93 and rendered around 50,000 people homeless.
According to Times of India, Former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, during his tenure, had also sought opinion on withdrawal of riot cases. The cases include charges on BSP MP Qadir Rana and other Muslim leaders. The then district magistrate of Muzaffarnagar, Kaushal Raj Sharma, had told the Times of India, “At best you can say the move can lead to the quashing of FIR.”
In this context, it is mention-worthy that the riot has been described as “the worst violence in Uttar Pradesh in recent history”.
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