New Delhi: A Supreme Court bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph Wednesday observed that the Delhi riots could have been prevented if the police had “independence” to act.
The bench observed that there is a “total lack of independence and professionalism of the police force” in that the police need to take consent for any action even when alarming situations arise.
The observation comes in the midst of communal riots, which have entered their fourth day in the national capital. They were sparked by clashes between protesters opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act and those backing the controversial legislation.
The violence in north-east Delhi has so far claimed 24 lives.
The two-judge bench, which was hearing a plea seeking removal of protesters from the Shaheen Bagh-Kalindi Kunj road, observed that if the model of policing in Delhi was like that of in England, such an incident could have been averted.
“Unfortunate things have happened. The problem is the total lack of independence of police,” observed Justice Joseph. “When an alarming situation arises, the police should take preventive steps to curb it and not wait for permission. Look at how it happens in England.”
The Delhi Police is under the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is with the central government.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta at this juncture urged the court to refrain from making such observations. “Let’s not demoralise the police. Our constable has died by a private bullet. He was lynched, my lords,” argued Mehta.
At this juncture, SC expressing concern for the lives lost said, “13 lives have been lost,” even as the lawyers present kept murmuring different figures…”18″, “35”, said the lawyers present.
The apex court, however, refused to consider pleas urging it to consider the issue of the riots as it observed that the matter would come before a Delhi HC bench led by Justice S. Muralidhar Wednesday noon.
In a midnight hearing on 26 February, a Justice Muralidhar-led bench had ordered the police to ensure the safe passage of injured from a hospital in Mustafabad to better ones like GTB Hospital and LNJP hospital.
Court to hear Shaheen Bagh cases on 20 March
The Supreme Court, which had earlier appointed senior lawyers Sanjay Hegde and Sadhna Ramachandran as interlocutors to speak to the Shaheen Bagh protesters and see if they agree to relocate the protest, agreed to let the interlocutors continue talks, and refused to pass any interim directions for the removal of protesters.
Justice Kaul also said that the intervention application filed by former chief election commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, seeking a SIT-monitored probe on police allegedly causing road blockages near Shaheen Bagh, was also disposed off without any directions.
The court will now take up the plea of removal of protesters again on 20 March.
Mehta, however, remained concerned as to whether the SC’s observations on the Delhi riots will be used against the Delhi Police in the high court, which is set to hear the case regarding riots and arson in several areas of the national capital.
“Let not the lawyers argue in the HC that Justice Joseph said 13 lives were lost,” Mehta said.
Joseph at this juncture said that these were observations and not an order. “No one can tamper with our orders, else they will be in contempt,” he said.
The Supreme Court has also observed that society cannot behave like this. “This is how a society cannot behave,” the bench said. “Healthy expression should be in a debate. What is happening is an unfortunate example of what should not have happened.”