The day after a bench headed by Justice S Murlidhar castigated the Delhi Police for its 'inaction' and said the court did not "want a repeat of 1984", a new bench gave the Centre and police four weeks to reply to a Public Interest Litigation seeking FIRs against three BJP leaders for alleged hate speeches and said that the next hearing would be on 13 April.
The bench comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar allowed the Centre to be impleaded as a party in the PIL filed by activist Harsh Mander seeking FIRs and arrests in the northeast Delhi communal violence. The court had on Wednesday granted the Centre only a day's time to decide whether a FIR was to be filed against BJP leaders Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma.
The Centre on Thursday transferred Justice Muralidhar to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, about two weeks after the recommendation by the Supreme Court collegium on 12 February. His transfer came in for sharp criticism from sections of the Opposition, with Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi tweeting:
The midnight transfer of Justice Muralidhar isn’t shocking given the current dispensation, but it is certianly sad & shameful.
Millions of Indians have faith in a resilient & upright judiciary, the government’s attempts to muzzle justice & break their faith are deplorable. pic.twitter.com/KKt4IeAMyv
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) February 27, 2020
'Condition not conducive for FIRs'
On Thursday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was quoted by Bar and Bench as saying, "The condition is not conducive at this moment. FIRs will be registered at an appropriate time."
Mehta made the same argument on Wednesday, but his statement had met with vehement disapproval from Justice Murlidhar, who had said, "What's the appropriate time, Mr Mehta? The city is burning."
Mehta said on Thursday, "I have avoided making statements which are not conducive. Authorities have examined all audio-video material. We have decided to defer the registration of FIR." He added that the FIR would be filed at an "appropriate time."
However, the Delhi government's counsel Rahul Mehra opposed this submission, saying, "When 11 FIRs have already been registered with respect to the Delhi riots, why not register FIR for hate speech?"
He added that the filing of an FIR is just the first step of an investigation, and it can always be cancelled later, and said, "The paramount consideration today is the well being of citizens."
In response, Mehta was quoted as saying by Live Law as saying that the petitioner was not seeking an FIR over the violence, but over speeches of political leaders.
Colin Gonsalves, representing the petitioner, said that "go and kill" has become the favourite slogan of a particular political party, and claimed that the attackers are also participating in the rallies held by these political leaders. He further remarked, "This court needs to send out a message that no one will be spared for making hate speeches."
The court has granted four weeks' time to the Centre to file a counter affidavit and posted the matter for further hearing on 13 April.
Court slams Delhi Police
On Wednesday, a bench of Justice S Murlidhar and Justice Talwant Singh lashed out at the police for its handling of the recent violence, saying it is "amazed" at the police's state of affairs.
The court made the remarks after Deputy Commissioner of Police (crime branch) Rajesh Deo told the bench that he had not seen the clip where BJP leader Mishra allegedly made a speech instigating violence in northeast Delhi.
During the hearing, the court asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared at the court on behalf of the Union government and represented the police officer, if they had seen the video clip of Mishra making alleged hate speeches.
While Mehta maintained that he does not watch television and has not seen those clips, Deo said he has watched the video of BJP leaders Thakur and Verma, but has not of Mishra.
On the submission made by the police officer, Justice Muralidhar remarked, "I am really amazed at the state of affairs of the Delhi Police", and asked the court staff to play Mishra's video clip in the courtroom.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Feb 28, 2020 11:48:50 IST