The Supreme Court on Wednesday transferred all the petitions related to large-scale communal violence in North East Delhi to the Delhi High Court, Bar and Bench reported. The top court asked the Delhi High Court to take up the matters on March 6.
The Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices Surya Kant and BR Gavai was hearing two petitions – a writ plea filed by nine riot victims and a special leave petition filed by activist Harsh Mander, according to Live Law. Both these petitions sought the registration of FIRs against Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma, who had engaged in hate speech before violence broke out in North East Delhi last week.
The Delhi High Court had on February 27 adjourned the hearing in a similar petition seeking FIRs to April 13. The top court, while requesting the High Court to hear the matter expeditiously, said this long adjournment was not justified.
“Adjournment for such long time is unnecessary,” the court said. “We don’t want to assume jurisdiction when High Court is seized of the matter but such matters should not be delayed for so long.”
The court also asked the Delhi High Court to explore the possibility of a peaceful resolution by asking both sides to field people who may be willing to engage in a dialogue for peace.
On Monday, Advocate Colin Gonsalves, who was arguing for the nine victims, had told a Supreme Court bench that the High Court should not have deferred the plea by four weeks even when people were still dying.
Gonsalves reiterated it on Wednesday and asked the court to urgently intervene and pass directions to arrest those delivering hate speech and to prevent the spread of violence. He briefed the court about the statements made by political leaders and the subsequent violence. “These were not just hate speeches but were coupled with mobilisation,” he said.
However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that the Delhi High Court must have had good reason to adjourn the hearing. “It would be naive to assume that speeches by two to three individuals could lead to riots,” he said.
Bobde also asked the solicitor general if the “environment is conducive” to register the first information report. When Mehta told the court that no violence has taken place in the last three days, the chief justice asked him if he will register the complaints today then. During the February 27 hearing in the Delhi High Court, the Delhi Police had claimed that the situation was “not conducive” to file FIRs at present.
Mehta argued that speeches have been made from both sides and that the authorities cannot be selective in registering FIRs. Mehta alleged that 468 FIRs had been filed in connection with the violence but the petitioners were concerned with specific individuals. “Things will not get aggravated if police file FIRs against both sides,” the court said in response. “FIRs do not prejudice anybody’s rights. It will not be a problem if situation is calm. Registration of an FIR does what to a man?”
Separately, the Supreme Court also said the petition filed by activist Harsh Mander seeking cases against some politicians who indulged in hate speech will be heard only after it sorted out the contents of a video where he allegedly instigated a crowd against the top court.
At the start of the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had referred to a video clip where Mander allegedly said that he has no faith in the Supreme Court and that “real justice will be done on the streets”. The activist reportedly made the remarks at a protest against Citizenship Amendment Act.
However, the counsel for Mander, Karuna Nundy, denied that he had made any such comments.
Chief Justice of India SA Bobde sought a transcript of the video. “We want to clear this out, we will issue notice and till this is clarified, we will not hear you, we will hear the other petitioners,” the court said.
The court told lawyer Karuna Nundy to first disprove claims of the hate speeches made by him and then the matter will be heard. “If you have not said those things, then we would want to satisfy ourselves,” the court added. “Till then we will hear Gonsalves [for the violence survivors]”.
Nandy was asked to file an affidavit regarding alleged clips by 2 pm. Mehta said he will also file an affidavit in the matter.