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SC rebukes Delhi Police for Delhi violence as death toll mounts to 27

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New Delhi, Feb 26: The Supreme Court rebuked Delhi Police on Wednesday for failing to act "professionally" and to check "unfortunate incidents" of violence in north-east Delhi which has left 27 people dead and scores injured, but refused to entertain pleas related to the riots over the new citizenship law, CAA.

The apex court lashed out at the law enforcing agencies for allowing the "instigators of violence" to get away and said they should act "independently" as per law without waiting for somebody's nod.

"If somebody makes an inflammatory remark, police has to take action," it said.

Though the top court did not look into the applications on the violence, it said there was a need for "conducive environment" to go into the matters related to Shaheen Bagh protests.

A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K M Joseph said it will not expand the scope of petitions filed in connection with Shaheen Bagh protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), by looking into the pleas on violence.

"We will not go beyond the scope of the petition before us. Several unfortunate incidents have taken place. The question before us is that whether the people aggrieved can sit at a place called Shaheen Bagh. We will hear only this issue," the bench said.

"We are not going into the applications related to the issue of violence. It is for the high court to look into the matter," it said.

The bench stated however that it is not precluding anyone from availing any remedy as per law.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the apex court that the Delhi High Court has heard pleas connected with the violence in the national capital and had listed them for further hearing in the afternoon.

The death toll in north-east Delhi communal violence rose to 27 on Wednesday from 13 the day earlier. Around 200 people have been injured.

After the applications were disposed of, there was a sharp exchange of words between the bench and the Solicitor General, when Justice Joseph said he wanted to say something on the issue of violence.

Mehta urged the bench not to make any adverse observations relating to the violence as it will demoralise the police force.

Justice Joseph said, "I will make the remarks as my loyalty is to the institution. I will fail in my duty towards the institution and as a judge, if I don't speak up my mind on the issue".

He added, "There was lack of independence and professionalism on part of the police. Unless you allow the police to act -- look at how police acts in UK and USA. Do they require somebody's nod to act as per law. If somebody makes an inflammatory remark, police has to take action. The guidelines in the Prakash Singh judgment need to be followed."

He said: "The police had been reluctant in implementing the Prakash Singh judgement. It cannot wait for any approval to let the instigators get away. Had the police acted in a professional manner, this situation would not have arisen. These things would not have happened had police not allowed instigators to get away".

Justice Joseph further said: "Don't misunderstand me, my remarks are being made keeping in mind larger perspective."

Mehta said that implementation of guidelines in Prakash Singh judgement of 2006 becomes difficult in a situation, when a police constable is shot dead and a deputy commissioner of police was attacked and attempts were made to lynch him. That verdict dealt with police reforms which included guidelines on separation of law and order and investigation.

The bench said that it has nothing against Delhi Police but its remarks have long term implications and it was for the law enforcing administration to ensure environment is conducive.

When a lawyer from petitioner side pointed that protestors at a road in Shaheen Bagh are using their right to protest as a weapon, the bench said, "Nowadays, lot of people are using lot of things. Let the police and administration do whatever necessary".

The bench posted the matter for hearing on March 23, saying there is a need for magnanimity and for situation to cool down before Shaheen Bagh issue is taken up.

The top court was hearing two pleas -- one by lawyer and petitioner Amit Sahni and other by BJP leader Nand Kishore Garg -- seeking removal of protestors from Shaheen Bagh, the epicentre of agitation against the CAA for over two months.

Restrictions have been imposed on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch and the Okhla underpass, which were closed on December 15 last year due to protests against CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

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