Investigation Into Gajendra Singh's Death Descends Into Farce As Agencies Fight Turf War

24/04/2015 4:35 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

NEW DELHI — The aftermath of the dramatic suicide of Gajendra Singh at an Aam Aadmi Party rally on Wednesday is fast descending into farce as two agencies claiming jurisdiction--the Delhi police, which comes under the union government, and the office of the New Delhi District Magistrate, which comes under the ruling AAP government in Delhi--are fighting to be the investigator in the case.

The New Delhi District Magistrate threatened to file a criminal complaint against Delhi Police officials if they don't hand over the case details and evidence collected so far immediately.

Delhi Police on Friday resolutely stuck to their stance that the death of the Rajasthan farmer, who died in an apparent case of suicide on Wednesday, was under their jurisdiction and they found no reason to hand over investigation of the case to the state government.

The backdrop of the tussle is clear--AAP believes that a Delhi police investigation will be biased against it as it reports to the union home ministry. Delhi is the only state-equivalent in the country where the local police is not under the state government.

"Delhi Police investigates 7,000-odd cases of unnatural deaths annually, of which 2,000 are unidentified dead bodies. These cases are investigated by police under section 174 and 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), wherein Delhi Police carried out its own inquest proceedings," said Rajan Bhagat, police spokesperson and additional commissioner of police (crime) during a press conference on Friday.

While Bhagat refused to divulge details of the investigation or of their communication with the district magistrate's office, he made it clear that police would continue with their probe, as was routine.

Meanwhile DM Sanjay Kumar has lashed out at local police, claiming that Singh's death at the farmer's rally organised by the Aam Aadmi Party fell under his office's jurisdiction. He has told local police that sections 174 and 176 of the CrPC empower him to investigate the matter.

Legal Tussle

While the CrPC clearly directs the local police to investigate all suicides or unnatural deaths, the law also gives power to the local magistrate to decide when a case requires their own inquiry. The CrPC says that police have to intimate the nearest Executive Magistrate of such unnatural deaths. According to the law, a magistrate can choose to conduct an investigation irrespective of police investigation.

Section 176 of CrPC says: "any Magistrate so empowered may hold an inquiry into the cause of death either instead of, or in addition to, the investigation held by the police officer; and if he does so, he shall have all the powers in conducting it which he would have in holding an inquiry into an offence."

However Delhi Police has claimed that the district magistrate has no jurisdiction in the case, and should allow police to continue their probe. "It is only in dowry death cases that a probe by the sub-divisional magistrate is done, because of the law under the Dowry Act," said a senior police officer. "Delhi police investigates thousands of unnatural deaths each year. Why has the state machinery never shown interest in any of these cases? Why do they suddenly want a magisterial probe for this particular case?"

While the DM's office is likely to continue, irrespective of cooperation from the police, it is likely to benefit AAP, said sources. The DM is directly part of the state machinery, and witnesses from the AAP rally, which include AAP workers and party leaders, will be part of the magisterial probe.

History Of AAP vs. Delhi Police

There's no love lost between Aam Aadmi Party and Delhi Police, as the two have a problematic history of frequent clashes. Right from the time when AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal was part of the India Against Corruption movement, he was repeatedly detained by police. Even after AAP formed the government in Delhi the first time, its leaders butted heads with police officers, like when then state law minister Somnath Bharti attempted to bust an alleged drug and prostitution ring.

AAP leaders have in the past threatened Delhi Police, held dharnas against them, and blamed the police for being ineffectual and "compromised".

Delhi Police in return has frequently acted against AAP workers, arresting them for misconduct, and for staging protests.

AAP, like the ruling parties in Delhi before it, has been demanding that the police should be under the state government. The government in Delhi gets blamed for law and order issues even though it doesn't control the Capital's police force.

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