Hardeep Singh Dibdiba has approached the Delhi High Court for a court-monitored and time-bound investigation in the death of his grandson Navreet Singh, who had died on 26 January in Delhi during a tractor rally to mark the ongoing farmers protests. Navreet’s family believes that the police shot and killed him. The Delhi Police has denied this allegation.
In his petition, Dibdiba asked for a “court appointed and court monitored Special Investigation Team comprising police officers with a demonstrable impeccable record of professional integrity, honesty, and efficiency, to carry out a time bound investigation” into his grandson’s death. He also sought directions from the court for the authorities to provide his family with copies of an X-ray report of the body and the video recording of the post-mortem, which was conducted in Rampur district of Uttar Pradesh, as well as a first-information report mentioned in the post-mortem report. Dibdiba also asked for the raw CCTV footage from the area where Navreet died to be placed on record. The court of the judge Yogesh Khanna heard the petition on the afternoon of 11 February and issued notice to Uttar Pradesh police and the chief medical officer of the District Hospital in Rampur.
Rahul Mehra, the standing counsel for the Delhi Police, assured the court of the police’s cooperation and promised to provide the petitioner with the CCTV footage. “We don’t have a difficulty in sharing the documents, including the CCTV, with the petitioner, but I would like to seek some time to file a detailed status report,” Mehra told the court.
Vrinda Grover, arguing for the petitioner, apprised the court in detail on the grounds of the petition. She referred to testimonies of eyewitnesses Harmanjeet Singh and Balwinder Singh, both farmers from Uttar Pradesh, who were quoted in a report by The Caravan, detailing the circumstances and the aftermath of Navreet’s death. Both eyewitnesses had told The Caravan that they saw police personnel fire at Navreet’s tractor, which overturned seconds later. Grover also quoted the opinion of Dr Basil Purdue, a pathologist in London, offered to The Guardian after examining the Navreet’s post-mortem report. The Caravan report discussed the port-mortem over six paragraphs, quoting an Indian forensic expert at length. Grover read out these paragraphs verbatim in court. She noted that both forensic experts, who spoke independently to different publications, found the injuries on Navreet’s body to be consistent with bullet wounds. Grover also noted that the post-mortem record did not include any injuries that would be consistent with a road accident, such as grazes or abrasions.
Grover further argued that the Delhi Police had committed grave procedural errors after Navreet’s death, and that it had prematurely concluded that Navreet died as a result of tractor accident. She stated that the police had not conducted a mandatory inquest into the death—a violation of the Code of Criminal Procedure. “The police cannot decide on its own that it is a death by road accident,” she said. Even if the police was certain of the fact that Navreet had died in a road accident, Grover pointed out, it was duty-bound to conduct inquest proceedings. “Delhi Police cannot abandon the Code of Criminal Procedure at will and make unverified and unsubstantiated claims,” she said.