Delhi Cabinet Rejects Panel of Lawyers Suggested by Police for Riots Cases

A free and fair trial would not be possible by a panel of lawyers selected by the Delhi Police, the cabinet said.

New Delhi: Observing that the courts have already raised serious questions on the fairness of investigations done by the Delhi Police in the North East Delhi riot cases, the Delhi cabinet on Tuesday rejected the panel of lawyers recommended by the police.

In a meeting called to decide on the appointment of a panel of lawyers in the Supreme Court and high court for cases related to the Delhi riots, the Arvind Kejriwal government observed that in such a situation, a free and fair trial would not be possible by a panel of lawyers selected by the Delhi Police.

Earlier, the Delhi Police had sent a proposal to the Delhi government to appoint six senior lawyers, including Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and ASG Aman Lekhi, as special counsel in the high court and Supreme Court in 85 cases related to the riots and the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act Protests.

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The Delhi government rejected the Delhi Police’s proposal and said that Delhi government lawyer Rahul Mehra and his team were capable of getting justice in these cases. After this, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal disagreed with the proposal sent by the Delhi home minister and asked for the file using his special power.

Later a meeting took place between the L-G and Delhi home minister on the issue, but it remained inconclusive. After this, Baijal wrote to Kejriwal and said that the Delhi cabinet should take a decision on this matter.

`Need to ensure independence between investigation, prosecution’

The cabinet meeting discussed L-G’s letter. “Keeping in mind the principles of criminal justice system and the need to ensure independence between investigation and prosecution, the Delhi Cabinet has directed the Home Department to form an impartial panel of the best possible lawyers in the country for the cases related to the Delhi riots,” a statement issued by the elected Delhi government said after the meeting.

It noted that during the cabinet meeting, the proposal made by the L-G and the Delhi Police were “thoroughly studied”.

“The Cabinet noted that anyone who is guilty of causing communal violence in Delhi should be punished severely. The Cabinet observed that at the same time there should not be any punishment or harassment of innocent people,” the statement said, adding that it rejected the suggestion of the L-G to approve the Delhi Police’s panel of lawyers.

`HC judge, sessions courts have questioned role of Delhi Police’

During the meeting, the Delhi cabinet noted that Justice Suresh Kumar of the Delhi high court had earlier observed that the Delhi Police is taking the entire judicial system on a ride on the Delhi riot cases.

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“The Cabinet has also noted that various session courts and media have questioned the role of the Delhi Police during the riot and its investigation. The Delhi Cabinet has observed that in such a situation the panel of lawyers of the Delhi Police would not be able to ensure justice in these cases. The Delhi Cabinet observed that these cases are very important and the Delhi government’s panel of lawyers should represent these cases,” the statement said.

`Investigating agency should not be allowed to decide the lawyers’

Further, it added, that the cabinet observed that the fundamental principle of any criminal justice system is that the investigation should be completely independent and the investigation should not interfere with rest of the judicial process. “Keeping this principle in mind, the Delhi Cabinet has observed that under such circumstances, it is not possible to expect a free and fair trial by lawyers appointed by Delhi Police. The Cabinet of the Delhi Government has noted that the investigating agency should not be allowed to decide the lawyers.”

`L-G repeatedly interfering in appointment’

The cabinet also observed that it was unfortunate the way the L-G, Anil Baijal, has been repeatedly interfering in the decision of appointment of the panel of lawyers.

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It reminded that the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has clearly stated in its order of July 4, 2018 that the L-G can exercise his authority over decisions of the elected government only in the rarest of rare cases. The cabinet noted that in this case, the L-G had written a letter to the chief minister for taking a decision in the cabinet, disagreeing with the panel of lawyers already set up by the Delhi government.

`Appointment of lawyers does not fall into rarest of rare cases’

However, the cabinet said, Section 24 of the CrPC also mentions that the Delhi government has the right to appoint public prosecutors. Under the Constitution, the L-G has special powers to intervene and overturn any decision of the elected government of Delhi. But the Supreme Court has said that the L-Gcan exercise this right only in the rarest of rare cases. Otherwise, it is against the spirit of democracy. Appointment of a panel of lawyers does not fall into any rare category and it is a normal procedure. For this reason, the Delhi government is fully empowered to appoint lawyers.”