The Delhi High Court on Friday, 6 March, listed the pleas on violence in northeast Delhi and hate speeches by political leaders on 12 March, PTI reported.
A bench headed by Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar listed the PIL seeking lodging of FIRs and arrests in the communal violence in northeast Delhi over CAA and alleged hate speeches by political figures for 12 March.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday had termed the Delhi High Court’s long adjournment of pleas asking for registration of FIRs for hate speech in connection with the Delhi violence as “unjustified” and directed the high court to conduct its next hearing into the issue on Friday.
Chief Justice of India SA Bobde transferred a plea filed by several riot victims to the Delhi High Court, where it is to be taken up along with other petitions in the high court already asking for similar reliefs.
The Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court had on Thursday, 27 February, adjourned these matters till 13 April, giving the Centre a month to respond to the pleas, including a request by activist Harsh Mander for registration of FIRs against BJP leaders Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and Parvesh Verma.
This was in stark contrast with an order passed by Justice S Muralidhar of the high court the day before, when he had asked the police to make a decision on the filing of the FIRs within a day. Justice Muralidhar’s transfer to the Punjab & Haryana High Court was finalised on the same day he passed that order (26 February).
On Monday, 2 March, the CJI at the Supreme Court agreed to hear the plea by the riot victims, who argued that the hate speech by politicians allegedly led to violence in the national capital. The victims challenged the long adjournment in Mander’s case by Delhi HC Chief Justice DN Patel as being unreasonable.
‘Long Adjournment by Delhi HC Unjustified’: CJI Bobde
When the hearing before CJI Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant started on Wednesday, they brought up a speech by Harsh Mander at a protest against the CAA to the judges’ attention, in which Mander allegedly criticised the judiciary and Parliament and said real justice could only be found on the streets.
Mander’s lawyer Karuna Nundy denied the allegations, and said he had not been notified of the same till now by the authorities.
The judges decided to look into this speech and after conducting a brief hearing on it on Friday, 6 March, they adjourned the matter to 12 March.
Till the time this issue is resolved, the judges said they would not hear arguments by Mander about the registration of FIRs.
Following this, CJI Bobde asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta about whether it was a “conducive” time to register FIRs for provocative speeches connected to the Delhi violence at this time. Mehta had informed the Delhi High Court last Thursday that it was the position of the Delhi Police that such FIRs should not be registered at the time as the “situation was not conducive” for this at the time.
The CJI noted that the riots had concluded, and hence was asking if the environment was now right for registration of FIRs. He pointed out that during the Mumbai riots, registration of cases against some leaders had aggravated the situation. However, if FIRs were registered now, this would not prejudice anyone.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, who is representing the ten riot survivors, was then asked to present his arguments. He informed the court about the speeches by Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma and Anurag Thakur, and observed “These were not just hate speeches, but were coupled with mobilisation.”
The Solicitor General objected at this point, noting that over 460 FIRs had been registered in connection with the violence, but that Gonsalves wanted these three FIRs only, which was absurd as “It is fallacious to believe that one statement would have led to riots.”
The CJI declined to go into this debate and instead focussed on the Delhi High Court’s decision to defer a decision on the FIRs for such a long time, which Gonsalves had strongly criticised. Gonsalves noted that the Jamia matter in the Delhi High Court had also been adjourned till the end of April.
Terming the adjournment of the case on hate speech FIRs till 13 April “unjustified”, the CJI said that the riot victims’ “prayer to hear the matter on time is justified.”
As the Delhi High Court was already hearing this issue, the judges declined to pass an order on this issue themselves, but directed the high court to take up the matter on Friday, 6 March.
The Solicitor General’s objections that this would lead to pressurising the high court were dismissed by CJI Bobde, who also refused his request for the case to be heard after Monday instead. Finally, the judges instructed Gonsalves to suggest names of eminent persons to the high court who could then seek to offer some sort of mediation on the ground to defuse tensions there.
‘Urgency as People Encouraging Hate’
The petition was mentioned for urgent listing by Gonsalves, appearing for the riots victims. The bench told Gonsalves that courts are not equipped to control riots and it is the job of the executive.
“We would wish peace but you know that there are limitations,” the bench observed, while adding, “Courts are not equipped to handle such kind of pressure. We also read newspapers and the comments which are made.”
Chief Justice of India SA Bobde remarked that the court also wishes for peace but it is also aware of its limitations. “We can’t prevent things from happening. We come in the scene only after occurrences. And then we pass appropriate orders.”
To this, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves stated, “But we can prevent the deterioration of such situations.”
Gonsalves said that the Delhi High Court has deferred for four weeks the pleas related to riots in the national capital despite the fact that people are still dying due to the violence.
“People are being killed at 10 persons per day. Last night itself, six or seven people died. There is an urgency because five or six personalities are going around encouraging it,” he said.
Harsh Mander is challenging the order passed by the Delhi High Court division bench comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar on 27 February deferring the petition until 13 April, based on the submission of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the “situation was not conducive” for registration of FIR.
Meanwhile, the complaint filed by CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat was also deferred till 23 April, seeking FIR against BJP leaders Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma.
(With inputs from PTI)