Delhi Police Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that it does not have the authority to appoint Special Public Prosecutors (SPPs), but had recommended the names to the Delhi government in the Delhi riots cases. While it said its recommendations are not binding on the Delhi government, the state told the court that it had rejected the names but later accepted them following intervention of the Lt- Governor and their approval by the President.
The submission was made in a petition seeking setting aside of the appointment of SPPs for the cases of Northeast Delhi riots. In its written reply, Delhi Police also described as “misconceived” the argument that such recommendations casts aspersions on the impartiality of the prosecution.
In a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal last year, the Delhi government had rejected the panel of lawyers the Delhi Police had chosen to argue the cases in the High Court and Supreme Court, saying it would imperil a free and fair trial.
The police Tuesday told the court: “The appointment of SPPs falls in the exclusive domain of the state subject to the provisions of Article 239-AA of Constitution of India, which says that the Lieutenant Governor has to act on the ‘aid and advice’ of Council of Ministers. In case of difference of opinion, the Lieutenant Governor, can make a reference to the President for decision and has to act according to the decision given thereon.” It also said that the department has consistently recommended the appointment of certain counsel as SPPs to the Delhi government. “The mere recommendation of certain names for appointment of SPPs by the answering respondent does not turn any SPPs appointed by the relevant authority as ‘private counsel’ for the Delhi Police,” the reply reads.
During the hearing, the Delhi government counsel submitted that the list sent by Delhi Police earlier was not accepted by the state, which had made a different list of SPPs. Due to the difference of opinion, the counsel submitted, the Lt Governor intervened in the matter and referred it to the President. The list sent by Delhi Police was ultimately accepted and the government only issued the notification, the court was told.
The petition against the appointment of SPPs has been filed by Delhi Prosecutors Welfare Association on the ground that the appointments made on the recommendations of Delhi Police are in violation of the law. The petitioner is a registered union of public prosecutors functioning in the district courts of Delhi.
Seeking appointment of independent SPPs, the petition also argues that the SPPs have been appointed without any consultations with the Directorate of Prosecution and that the influence of the police over the public prosecutors casts doubt over their actions.
The petition adds that grave allegations were levelled against police during the riots and argues that the appointments on their recommendation thus casts serious doubts on the fair conduct of criminal trial. Following a brief hearing, Justice Pratibha M Singh referred the matter for listing before the PIL bench and listed the case for hearing on March 15.
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