Farmers protest: AAP govt rejects Delhi Police's panel of lawyers; ball now in L-G's court

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

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

At an online press conference, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said 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 the case of farmers who have been protesting the three farm laws would seriously hamper legal parity and would not be fair to the accused peasants 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 force but to discharge an independent statutory role, presenting to the court the correct picture, the government said.

After his cabinet's decision, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said it is the duty of every citizen of India to support farmers and that 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 during 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.

In July last year, Lt Governor Baijal had overturned the AAP government's decision to reject the Delhi Police's panel of lawyers to argue the 2020 northeast Delhi riot cases in the high court and the Supreme Court.

According to a Delhi government official, the cabinet's decision to reject the city police's proposal to argue the farmers' protest cases will be conveyed to the L-G.

'It was decided that the Delhi government's lawyers will be public prosecutors in court matters related to the farmers' agitation,' the official said.

However, sources said the L-G is likely to invoke his special power under the Constitution and refer the dispute to the President of India.

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.

The issue pertained to a request made by the Delhi Police for the appointment of special public prosecutors for cases related to violence, disrespect of the national flag and blatant disregard of the rule of law on Republic Day during the tractor rally taken out by the protesting farmers in the national capital.

'It has nothing to do with the farmers' protest as it is being deliberately made out with ulterior motives,' a source claimed.

On Thursday, the Chief Minister's Office (CMO), in a statement, had said Baijal 'rejected' the panel of Delhi government lawyers appearing in cases against the farmers protesting against the Centre's three new farm laws at the city's borders.

'The Delhi Police investigating the cases, however, wants the appointment of its own panel of lawyers. Law Minister Satyendar Jain had rejected the Delhi Police proposal but now, the LG has put pressure on the Delhi government to call its cabinet meeting for a decision on the Delhi Police panel,' the statement said.

It also claimed that the LG, at a virtual meeting with Jain, had 'admitted' that the public prosecutors of the Delhi government were doing a 'good' job and fighting the cases efficiently.

The Delhi Police had registered over 40 cases in connection with the Republic Day violence and vandalism in the national capital. PTI GVS/GJS BUN BUN NSD NSD

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