The Delhi cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday rejected the panel of six public prosecutors suggested by Delhi Police to defend itself in the February 2020 riots as well as anti-CAA protests in the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court. Delhi government claimed that a ‘free and fair trial’ would not be possible if Delhi Police itself selects a panel of lawyers to defend itself. Instead, Kejriwal government has asked state home department headed by Satyendra Jain to set up a panel of ‘impartial panel of best lawyers’ to fight the case.
It is imperative to note here that former AAP councillor Tahir Hussain has been charge sheeted and accused of murder and orchestrating the riots. He has been accused of leading a mob to godown and setting it on fire. Delhi Police charge sheet also states that the IB officer Ankit Sharma was specifically targeted by the mob led by AAP leader Tahir Hussain. He is also accused of masterminding the Delhi riots and funding the violence in Chand Bagh. AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan has consistently defended Hussain and alleged that he is being ‘targeted’ for being a Muslim. Khan himself is also accused of inciting the violence in Delhi on 15th December 2019 amid the anti-CAA protests.
A Delhi government cabinet meeting was held on Tuesday on the direction of LG Anil Baijal who, in his letter dated 16th July 2020, gave the Kejriwal government a week’s time to decide on the panel of lawyers it wanted to appoint to fight the cases. On 10th July, the Delhi Police had proposed six names of lawyers to act as public prosecutors defending Delhi Police in the 85 cases related to the riots and violence during anti-CAA protests. This included solicitor general Tushar Mehta and additional solicitor general Aman Lekhi. Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia rejected the idea of the panel proposed by the Delhi Police. He has demanded that the Delhi government’s team of lawyers led by Rahul Mehra be assigned the task.
As reported by Hindustan Times, Delhi government rejected the proposal of Delhi Police on grounds that the investigation was biased. Delhi government cabinet stated that the lawyers should be ‘independent’ of the police and the LG should not ‘interfere’ as the matter is not ‘rarest of the rare’ case. According to Hindustan Times, the cabinet note read, “The judiciary has also made adverse remarks against Delhi Police’s investigations on several occasions… Therefore, in order to ensure that all facts are presented before the judges, it is extremely critical that the government advocates are independent of the Police. Therefore, the panel suggested by Delhi Police should be rejected”. The Cabinet also alleged “repeated interference” by the LG in appointing the panel of lawyers and asserted that the Delhi government has the right to appoint public prosecutors.
Recently, the Delhi government had rejected a panel of 11 lawyers appointed as public prosecutor for Delhi Police in lower courts for over 750 cases regarding the riots. The LG had then referred the matter to President Ramnath Kovind. Following which, Delhi state home minister Satyendra Jain had approved the appointment of public prosecutors.