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We do not want the city to witness another 1984: Delhi HC

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“Anguished over Police failure to lodge FIRs over hate speeches by 3 BJP leaders”

New Delhi, Feb 26: The Delhi High Court Wednesday expressed "anguish" over Delhi Police's failure to register FIRs against alleged hate speeches by three BJP leaders in connection with the CAA-related violence and asked the Police Commissioner to take a "conscious decision" on it by Thursday.

The court asked the Special Commissioner of Police, who was present in the hearing, to forthwith convey its "anguish" to the commissioner and observed that the city has seen enough violence and it should not witness another 1984 anti-Sikh riots-like incident.

A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Talwant Singh said when the police can register 11 FIRs in incidents including arson, looting, stone pelting, why it did not show alacrity when it came doing so in connection with the alleged hate speeches by the three BJP leaders -- Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra.

"Why are you not showing alacrity when it comes to registration of FIR in these cases?... We want peace to prevail. We do not want the city to witness another 1984 riots. This city has seen enough violence and anguish. Let it not repeat 1984," the bench said.

The court noted in its order that Special Commissioner Praveer Ranjan has assured he will sit with the police commissioner today itself and view all video clips and take a conscious decision on the issue of lodging of FIRs and convey it to the court on Thursday.

It made it clear that it was not confining the proceedings to the video clips of these three BJP leaders and the court will look into other clips as well.

The bench also issued notice to the petitioners -- human rights activist Harsh Mander and activist Farah Naqvi -- on an application moved by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to implead the Centre in the matter.

The court was hearing a plea by Mander and Naqvi seeking lodging of FIRs and arrests of those involved in the ongoing communal violence in parts of northeast Delhi over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. It has left 27 people dead and around 200 injured.

The hearing, in a jam-packed courtroom, witnessed heated arguments between Mehta and Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra, on who would represent the police commissioner.

Mehra and Mehta also differed on the issue of registration of FIRs in relation to the hate speeches.

While the SG said the court should wait for the response of authorities concerned on the issue of lodging FIRs against the three BJP leaders, Mehra contended there was no reason not to do so and FIRs ought to be registered against everyone involved in the violence.

Mehta said he has spoken to the highest authority and any decision taken by the court now may aggravate the situation.

Mehra was of the view however that FIR should be registered at this stage if a cognisable offence has been committed and later on if enough evidence is not found, the police can file a cancellation report.

Earlier in the day, the court, which observed that the situation outside was very unpleasant, asked Mehta to advise the police commissioner on the issue of lodging of FIRs against the leaders.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioners, said it was shocking that the senior law officer was suggesting to wait at this stage to lodge an FIR.

When the court asked whether these leaders have denied in public about making such statements, Gonsalves replied in negative.

The video clips of speeches made by Thakur, Verma Mishra and BJP MLA Abhay Verma were played in the courtroom.

While watching Mishra's video, the bench asked the name of the police officer seen standing next to the BJP leader and was informed by Gonsalves that it was DCP (north-east) Ved Prakash Surya.

Gonsalves further said the court in its order should say in strong words as to how the police should act in the prevailing situation as the agency has been quiet till now.

The SG took a strong objection to this submission and said the court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) and accused the petitioner of “selective outrage” based on video clips of three specific individuals.

When Gonsalves said the police must protect law without any fear or pressure, Mehta shot back "police is not having picnic, they are facing acid attacks".

"Delhi Police and Union of India is requesting your lordships that based on these selective clips, don't exercise your extra ordinary jurisdiction at this stage. Today is not the day and this time is not the correct time to take a call on this.

"The petitioner is confining why his public spirit has arisen only regarding these three persons and not the 50 other hate speeches," he said.

He added, "I have made my submissions. I am putting a word of caution that this court, being a constitutional court, should not hurry in directing lodging of FIR. It will be registered when situation is conducive", Mehta said and requested the court not to become "angry".

To this, Justice Muralidhar said it was the court's constitutional duty to protect the law and "this is not anger, this is anguish. A constitutional court's anguish is very serious and everyone should take it seriously".

The court also asked the special commissioner the reason for not lodging FIRs and whether he has seen the video clips or not.

"If you don't have an FIR, how are you going to proceed? These speeches are leading to more speeches and yet you are saying it is not the appropriate stage. Just register the FIRs Mr. Ranjan. And communicate this to the commissioner in the same spirit forthwith," the bench said.

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