Petition seeking SIT probe into young farmer’s death at tractor rally: Delhi HC issues notice, seeks status report

The Delhi High Court Thursday issued notice in a petition seeking a court-appointed and court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the death of 25-year-old farmer Navreet Singh, at the Republic Day tractor rally.

A single-judge bench of Justice Yogesh Khanna sent notices to the Delhi police, Delhi Government and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) District Rampur, UP, in the petition filed by the grandfather of the young farmer.

Justice Khanna also called for a detailed status report and directed the preservation of CCTV footage and other documentary and electronic evidence, and also directed that an advance copy of the status report be served on the petitioner.

Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Vrinda Grover, submitted that not only were there two eye-witnesses who asserted there were ‘gunshots’, but even medical experts had opined that the “lacerated wounds” on the deceased’s body were consistent with that of a bullet injury.

Grover contended that the Delhi Police had failed to conduct any investigation before making a hasty proclamation that the death was caused by accident.

“I have lost my grandson. I have a right to know how he died. I am seeking a fair, independent and time-bound investigation”, Grover submitted for the petitioner.

The plea alleged that at around 4:30 pm on January 26, about 20 policemen in riot gear stormed into the CCTV room of Andhra Education Society, removed the DVR from the CCTV storage and took it in their custody. When asked to disclose their identity, the policemen did not provide any details except to state that they had come from IP Estate Police Station.

The petitioner claimed that the entire incident on January 26, was captured on multiple CCTV cameras including those installed by the Andhra Education Society near ITO in New Delhi.

The protesting farmers and eyewitnesses who claimed that Navneet Singh was shot by policemen, demanded to see the CCTV footage from the Andhra Education Society. However, the Delhi police cited technical difficulties and did not facilitate the viewing of the CCTV footage, petition read.

It averred that without conducting any inquest under Section 174 Cr.P.C. and even before a post mortem was carried out, the Delhi police declared that the young farmer had died due to an accident and not because of any firing by policemen.

“To bolster their claim, a video was also released by Delhi police of the tractor overturning, which in no way is sufficient to rule out that Navreet Singh was shot while he was driving the tractor, as stated by eyewitnesses. This hasty, unverified and unsubstantiated claim by Delhi Police without conducting any enquiry or investigation, casts a dark shadow on its own fairness and integrity”, the plea asserted.

Standing counsel Rahul Mehra stated that CCTV footage had been seized and examined. He informed the court that an FIR had also been registered by Delhi Police.

Mehra added that there was no difficulty in sharing the documents that were in possession of the Delhi Police and that if CCTV footage was yet to be preserved, steps would be taken to do so. He sought time from the court to file a status report in the matter.

The case is now fixed for hearing on February 26.

Delhi Police has maintained that the petitioner’s grandson died after his tractor overturned during the rally. It lodged an FIR against MP Shashi Tharoor and senior journalists including Rajdeep Sardesai for tweeting on the farmer’s death, which the police claim was a misleading tweet.

The Leaflet