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Thursday, August 05, 2021

To argue red fort vandalism cases: Delhi Cabinet rejects panel of lawyers suggested by police

The government also alleged that the Centre, through Delhi L-G Anil Baijal, had been "pressuring the cabinet to give their nod to the list of lawyers sent by the Delhi Police".

Written by Mallica Joshi | New Delhi |
July 17, 2021 1:14:32 am
To argue red fort vandalism cases: Delhi Cabinet rejects panel of lawyers suggested by policeThe Delhi Police had proposed a panel of special public prosecutors who they wanted to appear in the court cases related to the farmers' protests as well as three new special prosecutors for Delhi riots. (Express Archive)

The Delhi Cabinet Friday rejected a panel of special public prosecutors (SPP) suggested by the Delhi Police to argue cases related to the vandalism of Red Fort during the January 26 farmers’ rally against the three farm laws.

This, the office of the Chief Minister said, was because lawyers appointed on the recommendation of the Delhi Police had failed to “function independently from the police, which is a cornerstone of the criminal justice system under the Indian Constitution”. The CMO statement also referred to the court remarking “that the Delhi Police had conducted dubious investigations in (Delhi riots) cases”.

The government also alleged that the Centre, through Delhi L-G Anil Baijal, had been “pressuring the cabinet to give their nod to the list of lawyers sent by the Delhi Police”.

The L-G now has the choice to invoke Article 239AA(4), which gives him special powers to refer a matter to the President in case his office and that of the elected government fail to arrive at a consensus on it.

Last year, there was a similar standoff between the Delhi government and the L-G over the appointment of special public prosecutors for cases related to the Delhi riots. After the proposal was rejected by the Cabinet, the L-G used his emergency powers as per Article 239AA(4), and the panel picked by the police was appointed. That panel is already appearing in cases before the courts.

The Cabinet also flagged the use of Article 239AA(4) and said that the Constitution Bench of Supreme Court had “clearly mentioned that the proviso can be invoked by the L-G only in extremely rare cases”.

“The Court had said that if the LG starts invoking the power regularly, then there would be no democracy left and the L-G would practically run the government to the exclusion of democratically elected government… the appointment of Special Public Prosecutors, and that too repeatedly, cannot fall in the category of ‘extremely rare cases’,” the CMO statement said.

The Delhi Police had proposed a panel of special public prosecutors who they wanted to appear in the court cases related to the farmers’ protests as well as three new special prosecutors for Delhi riots. The Cabinet has also refused the latter request.

While policing in Delhi falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs, the prosecution department is under the elected government.

The statement issued by the CMO said that the proposals of the police were rejected to “protect the integrity of the legal system where the investigators and prosecutors must be independent of each other”.

Officials said the Cabinet also discussed the case against Pinjra Tod member Devangana Kalita who was recently given bail by court, and the recent case of Mohd Nasir, a victim in the Delhi riots, wherein the Delhi High Court had imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on the police and said that the police sought to create a defence of the accused and that officers had “miserably failed” in their statutory duties in the case.

Friday’s Cabinet meeting was held after the L-G asked the government to convey its decision on the matter of appointment to him at the earliest.

The statement from the CMO said, “The farmers have been constantly agitating against the contentious laws and the cabinet observed that appointing lawyers of the Delhi Police, which is investigating the case, will devoid the case of fairness and impartiality.”

Referring to the Delhi riots cases, the statement said, “The cabinet noted that the courts had remarked that the Delhi Police had conducted dubious investigations earlier in the cases where lawyers of their preference were appearing.”
Officials said that the Cabinet was satisfied with the performance of the public prosecutors in the Red Fort case and no complaints were made against them.

Talking about the role of the Public Prosecutor, the Cabinet said that their role is not to “act as a spokesperson of the police force but to discharge an independent statutory role, presenting to the Court the correct picture.” “Therefore, it is important to appoint independent lawyers and the names of the lawyers recommended by Delhi Police cannot be accepted,” it said.

The L-G office did not respond to the CMO’s statement.

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