AAP govt rejects police's lawyer panels for farmer protests, Delhi riots; ball in L-G's court

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New Delhi, Jul 16 (PTI) The AAP government on Friday rejected the police's proposals to set up panels of public prosecutors to argue cases of violence during farmers' tractor rally on January 26 and the northeast Delhi riots, setting the stage for a fresh round of confrontation with the Centre and the L-G office.

The move not to allow police's lawyers to appear in the northeast Delhi riot cases comes against the backdrop of criticism faced by the force in different courts.

No reaction was available from the L-G office on the Delhi Cabinet's decisions.

Sources, however, said Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal is likely to invoke special powers granted to him in the Constitution and approve the panels of lawyers chosen by the Delhi Police.

At an online press conference, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the appointment of lawyers comes entirely under the purview of the Delhi government and the L-G can only use his veto power in the rarest of rare cases.

He also alleged that the lieutenant governor has been using veto power even in routine matters, terming it as a 'murder of democracy' and violation of the Supreme Court's orders.

The Delhi Cabinet on Friday observed that letting police's lawyers appear in cases of farmers who have been protesting the three farm laws would seriously hamper legal parity and would not be fair to the accused who bear a right to go through an unbiased trial, the government said in a statement.

It also said the cabinet affirmed that prosecutors are meant to be independent and cannot be according to the choice of the police.

The cabinet, while deliberating upon the proposal of the Delhi Police to appoint lawyers of their preference, was of the view that as held by various judgments of the Supreme Court, the role of the public prosecutor is not to act as a spokesperson of the police but to discharge an independent statutory role presenting to the court the correct picture.

After his cabinet's decision, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said it is the duty of every citizen of India to support farmers and the Delhi government has not done any favour to them.

'We have only done our duty towards the farmers of the nation. A farmer is not a criminal or a terrorist, but our 'annadata',' he tweeted.

Sisodia also claimed that it is very unfortunate that the BJP-led Central government has been interfering in the functioning of the AAP dispensation through the L-G.

'The Supreme Court has defined the use of this veto power by the L-G on transferred subjects. Doorstep delivery of ration and court matters related to farmers' protests are not the rarest of rare cases.

'This power cannot be used left, right and centre every day. This is a murder of democracy and violation of the Supreme Court's orders,' the deputy chief minister said at the press conference.

The cabinet also observed that the demand of the Delhi Police to appoint lawyers of their choice in the case was baseless and unwarranted and that it could not allow the same to happen.

'The cabinet was satisfied with the performance of the government's present public prosecutors and noted that there were no complaints made against their functioning,' it also said.

With regard to northeast Delhi violence that had taken place in February last year, the government said, 'In a big decision today, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's Cabinet refused to allow Centre's lawyers from appearing in North-East Delhi riots cases.' Communal clashes had broken out in northeast Delhi in February 2020, after violence between the Citizenship (Amendment) Act supporters and its protesters spiralled out of control leaving at least 53 people dead and over 700 injured.

In the northeast Delhi riots issue, the Cabinet asserted that the Delhi High Court and the trial courts had repeatedly raised 'serious questions on the investigations' by the Delhi Police in several cases where special public prosecutors were appointed at the request of the force, the government statement said.

Sources claimed the Cabinet decision has 'little practical implication' because a panel of six special public prosecutors are already appearing in over 600 riots cases for one year.

The Delhi government had in July last year also rejected the proposal of the Delhi Police for the appointment of special prosecutors in the riots cases. The LG had overturned the Delhi government's decision and directed the home department to grant approval to the Delhi Police's proposed panel of lawyers.

The Delhi Cabinet, in its meeting chaired by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, observed that the courts have 'raised serious questions' on the 'fairness' of the investigation carried out by the Delhi Police in the riots cases, the government statement said.

'It had also observed that in such a situation, a free-and-fair trial of these cases would not be possible by a panel of lawyers selected by the city police itself,' it said, adding that in one case related with the riots, the court had also fined the DCP (North-East) of Delhi Police for 'miserably failing in statutory duties'.

The cabinet noted that the courts had 'remarked' that the Delhi Police had conducted 'dubious investigations' earlier in the cases where lawyers of their preference were appearing, added the statement.

On Thursday, the Delhi government had alleged that it was being pressured by the BJP-ruled Centre to replace its prosecutors appearing in cases related to the anti-farm laws stir, with those of the Delhi Police. PTI GVS/GJS/VIT BUN NSD NSD

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