Days after Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal wrote to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal asking him to take a call on the appointment of six public prosecutors recommended by the Delhi Police to argue Northeast Delhi riot-related cases, AAP leaders said the L-G was interfering in the matter.
A meeting between Baijal and acting Delhi Home Minister Manish Sisodia to discuss the issue on Friday was inconclusive as neither relented to the other’s demand, officials said.
Sources said the L-G insisted that the six lawyers police have named, including Aman Lekhi and Tushar Mehta, be allowed to represent the force. Sisodia, however, said the Delhi government’s standing counsel, Rahul Mehra, should represent the state.
AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said Saturday that the Delhi government prosecutors should represent the state for the sake of fairness. “The L-G and Central government are insisting on the appointment of a panel of special public prosecutors chosen by the Centre. This is happening at a time when there are very serious allegations on the response of Delhi Police to these riots as well as how the investigation is going on. There are reports that police are busy implicating some people and trying to save others. It is therefore extremely important that the PPs for these cases are independent. If they are under the Centre and appointed by Delhi Police itself, their independence is under serious question.”
Sources said Baijal had asked for the file relating to the matter earlier this week.
The L-G Office said in a statement that effective prosecution in riot cases was the “need of the hour” and that the need to appoint special PPs was felt to ensure the cases are “handled properly and in a focussed manner”.
“Since the cases are of highly sensitive nature, very large in number and there are several petitions… these require constant monitoring and coordination across different courts… It is beyond doubt that the PP represents the state by virtue of his office. At the same time, he is also an officer of the court and is required to render assistance to the court to arrive at a just and equitable decision… there is no reason to imagine that the PPs appointed wouldn’t perform their duty fearlessly and impartially as officers of the court,” the statement said.
While Delhi is not a full state, the government has the power to appoint special PPs. The L-G, however, can refer to the President’s decision if he and the government fail to reach a consensus.
AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha said the power to appoint special PPs lies with the government and not the L-G: “Under the law it is very clear that the PP is a representative of the State and not the police… Delhi Police being the investigating agency should have no role in deciding the lawyers.”
“Last month, the L-G used his extraordinary powers to appoint 11 Central government lawyers to represent cases pertaining to Delhi riots in the lower courts,” he said.