The Supreme Court on Wednesday castigated the Delhi Police over the clashes around the Citizenship Amendment Act and said lives would have been saved had the police acted on time to stop people from making inflammatory remarks, PTI reported. The toll from the violence rose to 24 and over 180 people have been injured.

A bench of Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph said the court will not expand the scope of petitions filed in connection to remove Shaheen Bagh protestors to shift their agitation by looking into the pleas on violence in Delhi. It also said that the Delhi High Court is hearing a matter pertaining to the violence and that the petitioners are free to pursue legal remedies.

During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the judges that their remarks may “demoralise the police” during such tense situations, The Hindu reported. In response, Justice Joseph said: “I will say”.

“Lack of professionalism of the police is the main problem here,” Joseph added. “If you had not allowed people to get away after inflammatory remarks, all this would not have happened. If you act the way law requires to act, you will see the difference.”

The court said the police do not have to wait for orders when someone makes inflammatory statements.

Mehta pointed that one police constable also died in the clashes. “My deputy commissioner of police is injured,” the solicitor general added. “He is on ventilator. Let us not demoralise the police by saying anything now. We do not know what the situation on the ground is.”

The court said it has nothing against Delhi Police but the remarks are being made to ensure that law and order is maintained. “This will happen if you allow people to get away,” Joseph said. “Unless you do not get the police to act, there will be no difference. Look at how police acts in the UK. Do they require somebody’s nod? If somebody makes an inflammatory remark, police swings into action immediately.”

Justice Kaul said what happened in Delhi during the last few days is “unfortunate”.

One of the lawyers, Mehmood Pracha, told the court that “houses are being burnt” even as the hearing was under way. However, the court said it was up to the Delhi High Court to take up cases related to violence.

“We will not go beyond the scope of the petition before us,” the bench said. “Several unfortunate incidents have taken place. The question before us is that whether the people aggrieved can sit at a place called Shaheen Bagh. We will hear only this issue.”

Mehta then urged Kaul not to use the term “unfortunate” as it may “legitimise” whatever had happened. “Who can deny that whatever has happened is not unfortunate?” he asked. “Yes, many unfortunate things have happened. It should not have happened.”

“Of course... But you have to know the ‘whys’, ‘hows’ and ‘whats’,” the law officer for the government responded.

The violence began on Sunday after huge groups of people supporting the Citizenship Amendment Act clashed with those opposing it. Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra is accused of instigating people after he gave a three-day ultimatum to the Delhi Police to ensure that the streets of Jaffrabad and Chand Bagh were cleared of those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The protestors had been sitting outside the Jaffrabad metro station in North East Delhi since Saturday night as they emulated the two-month old Shaheen Bagh demonstration in South Delhi, where women have also blocked a road to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the National Population Register and the National Register of Citizens.

On Tuesday, a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Abhay Verma from Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar area was seen leading a crowd of his supporters chanting the “shoot the traitors” slogan used for anti-Citizenship Act protestors.