Lt-Governor Anil Baijal Thursday overturned the Delhi Cabinet’s decision to appoint a panel of lawyers of its own choice to argue the February riots cases in the High Court and Supreme Court, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office said.
Baijal invoked Article 239AA(4) of the Indian Constitution and referred the dispute to the President of India. In the interim, the panel of lawyers chosen by Delhi Police and approved by Baijal will argue the cases.
“The L-G invoked special powers granted to him under the Constitution. The Home Department has been ordered to approve the panel chosen by the Delhi Police. The Delhi government will now have to implement the order at any cost as it is mandated by the Constitution,” a statement from the CM’s office said.
The Northeast Delhi riots claimed at least 53 lives between February 23 and February 26. There were scores of injuries, widespread arson, and damage to property.
Delhi Police proposed to the Delhi government to appoint six senior lawyers, including Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, as Special Public Prosecutors in the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court in 85 cases related to riots and anti-CAA -protests.
The government had opposed the proposal, which had the L-G’s backing. The matter was placed before the Cabinet on Tuesday based on the directions of the L-G, who could not invoke Article 239AA(4) till the Cabinet had taken a position on the issue.
The Cabinet rejected the panel chosen by police, saying, “There have been allegations that the investigations of Delhi Police in these cases are biased and not impartial. The judiciary has also made adverse remarks against Delhi Police investigations on several occasions. Therefore, in order to ensure that all facts are presented before the Hon’ble judges, it is extremely critical that the government advocates are independent of the Police.”
The Cabinet’s decision set the stage for Baijal to invoke Article 239AA(4), citing “differences of opinion” with the elected government.
In a statement, the Delhi government had targeted the L-G for his “repeated interferences” in the matter. The L-G had previously invoked Article 239AA(4) after a similar dispute arose over the appointment of public prosecutors to argue the riots cases in the lower courts.
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