Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday said Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal’s decision to reject a panel of lawyers selected by the Aam Aadmi Party government for cases against the farmers protesting against the Centre’s three new farm laws was “an insult” to the citizens of the Capital.
“The people of Delhi chose the AAP government with a historic majority and defeated the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party],” Kejriwal tweeted. “BJP should run the country, let AAP run Delhi. Such interference in everyday work is an insult to the people of Delhi. BJP should respect democracy.”
The cases are related to the agitation against the farm laws, including those filed in connection with the violence that erupted during the tractor rally on January 26, reported The Times of India.
The Delhi Police have registered 48 first information reports under various sections of the law. On February 26, they had requested the Delhi government’s home department for appointing 11 lawyers as special public prosecutors to deal with trials, appeals, bail pleas and all other miscellaneous matters in connection with the FIRs.
In the first week of July, Baijal had written to the Delhi government, asking it to consider the matter in a Cabinet meeting. He had said that the cases were sensitive in nature and needed careful handling in a time-bound banner.
At the Cabinet on Monday, the Kejriwal-led government rejected the list of lawyers proposed by the Delhi Police. It had decided that the Delhi government-appointed prosecutors would handle the case.
The AAP government claimed that the Centre was pressuring the Delhi Cabinet through the lieutenant governor to approve the Delhi Police list. It said that the Cabinet was of the view that approving the list of lawyers suggested by Delhi Police would hamper legal parity and be unfair to the accused, who have a right to an unbiased trial.
In a separate decision, the Delhi government also rejected another panel of three lawyers recommended by the Delhi Police for cases related to the violence in the Capital that broke out in February 2020.
The lieutenant governor then referred the matter to President Ram Nath Kovind, citing differences of opinion. This is the first time the lieutenant governor has referred such a matter to the president since the Centre notified the amended Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, in April. The law significantly expands the powers of the Centre-appointed lieutenant governor of Delhi, at the cost of the elected Assembly.
In a letter, Baijal notified the Delhi government said that the matter has been referred to the president, reported NDTV. However, the lieutenant governor added he has exercised his power and appointed the lawyers named by the Delhi Police since it was an urgent matter.
On Saturday, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia asked what was the Centre’s interest in choosing the lawyers. “If they have to choose the lawyers also, what is the point of the elected government of Delhi?” Sisodia questioned.
He said that the lieutenant governor had powers to refer the Delhi government’s decisions to the Centre but it was only in “exceptional circumstances”. “They [the Centre] are using these powers in nearly every matter,” he alleged.