Azad Maidan riot: 23 sent to police custody

Twenty-three persons arrested for Saturday's riots were remanded in police custody till August 19 after they were produced at the Esplanade Court on Sunday afternoon.

Seeking their police custody, the Crime Branch argued that it was necessary to interrogate the accused to ascertain if the attack was pre-planned as well as to identify others involved. It is also necessary to interrogate the accused about a missing service revolver that was snatched by rioters, the Crime Branch said.

Defence advocate Wahab Khan, however, argued that none of the organisers of the protest had been arrested by the police. He alleged that those arrested were innocent and had come to the area on Saturday evening to pick up their vehicles parked there.

According to the police, two self-loading rifles (SLRs) and 160 rounds of 7.65 mm were stolen during the riot along with a service revolver and 10 nine mm rounds. While the police found the two SLRs abandoned near Azad Maidan, the revolver is still missing.

"As many as 19 7.65 mm SLR rounds were later found during a search in Mumbra, which indicates that people from the area were involved in the riot," said Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Himanshu Roy.

In the FIR filed in the case, the accused have been booked under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to murder, attempt to murder, outraging the modesty of a woman, dacoity, rioting, arson, damage to public property, unlawful assembly and causing grievous hurt, as well as Sections of the Bombay Police Act and Arms Act.

"The organisers of the rally have been named in the FIR and their role is being examined before further action is taken. There were 17 people who had shared the stage, of whom five delivered speeches. We have recordings of the speeches and are studying them to ascertain if any provocative or inflammatory statements were made. We are also collecting photographs, CCTV recordings and video footage from private and public sources to identify the arsonists, rioters and miscreants," said Roy.

"We have also been told that there were MMS and Facebook messages being exchanged before the protest on Saturday and we will be studying them to investigate a conspiracy, if any," he said.

Roy said under Section 51 (A) of the Bombay Police Act, the police would seek compensation for damaged property from the organisers and identified rioters. "We are drawing up panchnamas and ascertaining the extent of damage. Under Section 51 (A) of the Bombay Police Act, the compensation is to be paid by rioters and organisers and we will move for recovery from them."

A special team with 11 Crime Branch officers has been formed

to probe the riot.

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