Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on Thursday overruled the Aam Aadmi Party-led government’s decision to appoint a panel of lawyers of its own choice to argue the cases related to the communal violence that broke out in North East Delhi in February, PTI reported. In the interim, the panel of lawyers chosen by the Delhi Police and approved by Baijal will argue the cases.
In a statement on Thursday, the Chief Minister’s Office said that Baijal has invoked the special powers granted to him under the Constitution of India, which made it imperative for the government to abide by his orders. “The Home Department has been ordered to approve the panel chosen by the Delhi Police,” the statement added. “The Delhi government will now have to implement the order at any cost as it is mandated by the Constitution.”
The lieutenant governor invoked Article 239AA(4) of the Constitution and referred the dispute to the President, citing “differences of opinion” with the elected government, according to The Indian Express.
Baijal has selected a six-member panel recommended by the Delhi Police, which includes Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi. However, in a Cabinet meeting chaired by Kejriwal on Tuesday, the Delhi government rejected the panel, saying it would obstruct a free and fair trial.
“There have been allegations that the investigations of Delhi Police in these cases are biased and not impartial,” the Cabinet had observed. “The judiciary has also made adverse remarks against Delhi Police 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.”
The government suggested that its counsel Rahul Mehra and his team should handle the cases instead. However, the L-G rejected the suggestion.
The violence and investigation
Clashes had broken out between the supporters of the new citizenship law and those opposing it between February 23 and 26 in North East Delhi, killing 53 people and injuring hundreds. The police were accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence, mostly in Muslim neighbourhoods. The violence was the worst Delhi saw since the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.
In multiple chargesheets filed last month, the police had claimed the violence in Delhi was a result of a conspiracy to defame the Narendra Modi-led government. They alleged that people who had organised protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act were the conspirators. However, the police have failed to produce video evidence so far.