A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said that "looking at the complexity of the situation", the central government was seeking more time to file a reply to the plea which has also sought lodging of FIRs against three BJP leaders.
The Delhi High Court on Thursday made the Centre a party in the PIL which has sought lodging of FIRs and arrests in communal violence in northeast Delhi over the amended citizenship law and gave it four weeks to file a reply to the petition. A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said that “looking at the complexity of the situation”, the central government was seeking more time to file a reply to the plea which has also sought lodging of FIRs against three BJP leaders over their alleged hate speeches in connection with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) related violence.
On Wednesday, a different bench of the high court, comprising of Justices S Muralidhar and Talwant Singh, had expressed anguish over the police failure to register FIR against the three BJP leaders — Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra — over their alleged hate speeches and had asked the police commissioner to take a “conscious decision” on it by Thursday.
Justice Muralidhar was transferred late last evening to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, days after the Supreme Court collegium had made the recommendation. When the arguments commenced post-lunch on Thursday before the new bench, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta at the outset said some of the alleged hate speeches in question were three weeks to more than a month old and yet instead of waiting for one more day the matter was mentioned by the petitioners before the bench headed by Justice Muralidhar on the ground that there was “great urgency”. Mehta said the petitioners could have waited for one more day as the matter was listed for hearing before the Chief Justice’s bench on Thursday.
The SG said that everyone was trying to restore normalcy in the national capital and urged the court not to intervene at this stage as it would not be conducive to maintaining law and order in the city. He further said: “Considering the prevailing situation, it is the considered opinion of the police authorities that any decision at this juncture may not be conducive for restoration of normalcy. The decision (on lodging of FIR) will be taken at an appropriate stage in accordance with law”.
The SG also submitted that the authorities have examined all the audio/video clips and other material including that on Twitter and “after having carefully considered all these materials, a conscious decision is taken to defer the decision on the question (of lodging FIR)”. He also urged the court to allow the impleadment application moved by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), instead of waiting for the petitioners’ reply as done by the previous bench.
“Union of India’s impleadment cannot depend on the yes or no of the petitioner,” said Mehta, who also stated he was authorised by the LG to appear for the police. Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra, who also claimed to be appearing for the police, said he will not get into the issue of appearance and instead urged the bench to issue some directions in view of the seriousness of the situation prevailing in north-east district of the city. Mehra said, “The court yesterday had asked why FIRs regarding hate speeches were not lodged when FIRs for other offences have been registered”. He also told the bench that as on date 48 FIRs have been registered in connection with the deaths, arson, loot and other offences committed in that area. The death toll in the communal violence reached 34 on Thursday, with around 200 people injured.
“In larger interest of the citizens some directions may be issued,” Mehra told the court. However, the SG said the MHA and police need time to file a reply. He also told the court that the hate speeches would be looked into and a decision would be taken on what has to be done and added that the decision taken would be indicated in the MHA response. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, who appeared for petitioners Harsh Mander and Farah Naqvi, said there was “hatred in the air” due to the alleged hate speeches and “it resulted in the deaths, arson and looting”. He said if hate speeches led to murder, then those making such speeches would be responsible for the death. “FIR has to be lodged immediately, today itself. These people should be arrested and taken off the streets,” he added. The high court had on Wednesday had observed that the city had seen enough violence and it should not witness another 1984 anti-Sikh riots-like incident.