A mere WhatsApp group chat is not enough to establish guilt, Delhi court says, while dropping conspiracy charges against defendants in riot case

The court, while acknowledging that there were exhortations in the chats to come out and kill, did not see this as evidence of a conspiracy.

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AT On Tuesday, a Delhi court dismissed 12 men from criminal conspiracy charges after finding it “unfathomable” how a message posted to a WhatsApp group alone could indicate an agreement to commit an illegal act .

The defendants were allegedly part of a conspiracy to murder members of the Muslim community during the Delhi riots in February 2020. The court upheld the other charges against them, namely under Section 144 (joining an unlawful assembly with a deadly weapon) , 147 (punishment for riot), 148 (riot, armed with a deadly weapon) and 302 (punishment for murder) of the Indian Penal Code [IPC] read with Section 149 of the IPC. However, it refused to charge her with criminal conspiracy over the WhatsApp chats. Additional sessions, Judge Virender Bhat remarked: “Merely admonishing others to come out and engage in criminal activity does not constitute an agreement between the person issuing the admonition and the person to whom the admonition is directed to commit a crime.”

The court further found that of the 12 defendants, only one, Lokesh Solanki, was a member of the WhatsApp group called “Kattar Hindu Ekta” and therefore could not be inferred that there was any agreement between the members of said group of unlawful acts, let alone that killing Muslims. Prosecutors had claimed that an analysis of messages in the group pointed to a target to kill an innocent Muslim, namely Amir Khan, who was killed on February 26, 2020. The messages in the group also urged Hindus to leave their homes. and robbing and killing Muslims in Bhagirathi Vihar, prosecutors further claimed.

The court added that Solanki had issued a statement boasting about killing two members of the other community and throwing them down the drain, but he had not asked the other members to do the same, nor had any other member shown his willingness to indulge in such a terrible act.

While noting that there was no evidence that all 12 were associated with this group, the court also stressed the lack of a “convention of opinions” to prove conspiracy to commit an illegal act.

The court said that when reviewing these Whatsapp chats “Nowhere is it indicated that this group was formed for a specific illegal purpose, i.e. to kill people belonging to a Muslim community or to destroy/burn their property, and that the members had agreed with each other that they would become a such an unlawful aim would achieve the conspiracy.”

In addition, the order notes that a “careful analysis” of the chats shows that they are “Members stood ready for any attack from other communities.”

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