New Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal’s cabinet Tuesday rejected a panel of lawyers chosen by the Delhi Police to represent themselves in cases related to the riots in the north-eastern part of the city in February 2020.
The Aam Aadmi Party government has expressed its displeasure with the six names, saying the panel suggested by the Delhi Police might go against the dire need for a “fair trial” in the riots cases.
AAP’s official Twitter handle stated the cabinet has directed the home department to appoint the best lawyers for a fair and impartial trial.
Delhi Cabinet led by Hon'ble CM Shri @ArvindKejriwal dismisses the panel of advocates appointed to represent Delhi Police in Delhi riots case.
Delhi cabinet directs Home Dept to appoint the best lawyers for a fair and impartial trial.
— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) July 28, 2020
Another tussle with L-G
The Delhi Police had written to Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal about the appointment of six senior advocates who would argue 85 cases related to the northeast Delhi riots and the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests on its behalf in the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court.
The names suggested by the Delhi Police include central government laws officers, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi.
After some pushback from the Delhi government, L-G Baijal asked it to decide on the matter expeditiously within a week.
Tuesday, Kejriwal’s cabinet observed that “the courts have already raised serious questions on the fairness of investigations done by the Delhi Police in the riot cases”.
“In such a situation, a free and fair trial of these cases would not be possible by a panel of lawyers selected by the Delhi Police itself,” it said.
It is a significant development that further sheds light on the differences between the L-G’s office and AAP’s Delhi government over the appointment of lawyers to represent Delhi Police in riots cases.
Sources in the L-G office declined to give a comment on the development and said a response will be given on Wednesday.
However, sources also indicated that the issue may be referred to the President in view of the difference of opinion between the L-G’s office and the Delhi cabinet. This will be in accordance with Article 239AA(4) of the Constitution.
President appointed 11 public prosecutors
This is the second time the LG’s office and AAP government have entered into a confrontation on the issue of appointing special lawyers to argue riots cases.
In June, a dispute arose about having a panel of special public prosecutors for cases before the trial court. The Delhi cabinet had rejected the proposal forwarded to it by the L-G office, following which President Ram Nath Kovind approved a list of 11 special public prosecutors in relation to 753 riots cases. This appointment was under Section 24 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The confusion over who would represent Delhi Police in the high court has often led to verbal spat between Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra and law officers, including Mehta.
The root of the confusion is that the Delhi Police reports to the Union home ministry, while the Delhi government’s standing counsel is authorised to represent Delhi Police in all criminal cases in the high court. But, in the riots cases, the Delhi Police has picked Mehta, Lekhi and other central government panel advocates.
On 2 July, the Delhi High Court had asked the central and Delhi governments to file written submissions on whether the L-G could unilaterally appoint the Solicitor General and other counsel of the central government to represent the Delhi Police.
A lawyer in the know, who did not wish to be identified, told ThePrint that the panel of special public prosecutors appointed by the L-G on the orders of the President cannot be set aside by the Delhi cabinet.
“If they have a grievance, the only option is to challenge the notification in court, which has not been done till date,” the lawyer said.
(With inputs from Bhadra Sinha)
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