The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Delhi High Court to decide within three months on a plea seeking filing of cases against Union minister Anurag Thakur and three other Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Varma and Abhay Verma for allegedly delivering hate speeches ahead of the riots in the national Capital in February 2020, reported Bar and Bench.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai was hearing a petition filed by three victims of the violence. The plea said that the complainants “were losing hope” as the High Court was not taking up their case.
Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, who represented the petitioners, contended that no progress had been made in the plea before the Delhi High Court, even as the Supreme Court had asked it to decide on the matter quickly.
In March 2020, the Supreme Court had asked the Delhi High Court to pass an order on the case soon. The High Court had then said that the case would be heard after the cases related to police action while handling protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Jamia Millia Islamia University in 2019.
At Friday’s hearing, Gonsalves argued that the Jamia violence cases were also not being decided even after several hearings, reported Live Law. The petitioners noted that their request was a “simple and straightforward” one for registering first information reports based on videos of the speeches made by the BJP leaders.
The petitioners have also asked for an independent Special Investigation Team, with officers not from Delhi, to look into cases related to the riots. The plea also sought compensation for the victims and asked for CCTV camera footage to be preserved along with the evidence of the violence.
A total of 53 people, mostly Muslims, had died after clashes broke about between supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing it in North East Delhi between February 23 and February 26, 2020. The Act had triggered protests across the country as it introduced religious criteria for Indian citizenship for the first time.
What did the BJP leaders say?
Union Minister Anurag Thakur had shouted inflammatory slogans at a rally in Delhi in January last year before the riots broke out. Thakur was heard shouting “desh ke gaddaron ko” and the crowd responded with “goli maaro saalon ko”. The slogan meant “shoot the traitors”, with an expletive used for “traitors” – a reference to those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
On February 23, 2020, Mishra had amassed a crowd and gave an ultimatum to the police to clear the roads of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protestors holding a sit-in protest at Jafrabad in Delhi.
In the presence of a senior police officer, the BJP leader had demanded that the police evict the protestors and threatened violence in case they failed to do so within three days. His speech raised tensions in the area and resulted in skirmishes that afternoon.
On December 6, a court in Delhi convicted a man for being part of a mob that set a house on fire during the riots in the national capital in February 2020. It was the first conviction in the Delhi riots cases.
The first verdict in the cases was passed in July. In that case, the court had acquitted a man accused of rioting and looting. The judge delivering the verdict had noted that the prosecution had failed miserably to prove its case.