2020 Delhi riots: HC grants time for impleadment of political leaders in pleas alleging hate speeches

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2020 Delhi riots, HC, impleadment, political leaders, hate speech

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday granted time for filing of applications for adding as parties certain political leaders to the petitions alleging that they delivered hate speeches which led to violence in February 2020 here in the backdrop of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Senior advocates Colin Gonsalves and Sonia Mathur, who appeared for petitioners Shaikh Mujtaba Farooq and Lawyers Voice, respectively, said that they would file applications for the impleadment of the concerned persons to their petitions seeking registration of FIRs against the alleged wrongdoers.

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A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup J Bhambhani said the court is yet to allow the applications which will be considered after being filed.

Gonsalves clarified that his application was “very different” from the one that will be filed in the other petition, to which Justice Mridul responded, “Once she (Mathur) files an application, we will consider it. We are not allowing the applications yet. The applications have to be filed.”

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Petitioner Farooq has sought registration of FIR against BJP leaders Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma, and Abhay Verma.

The other petitioner has sought the registration of hate speech FIRs against Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as well as Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Aam Aadmi Party MLA Amanatullah Khan, AIMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi and former AIMIM MLA Waris Pathan.

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During the hearing, the bench questioned the petitioners if any order having criminal consequences can be passed in the absence of the parties getting affected as it emphasised that the presence of all necessary and proper parties is required for adjudication.

“Assuming that you are able to satisfy us, people, against whom allegation is made, can we proceed to issue directions against them without hearing them? Aren’t they entitled to an opportunity to defend themselves?” the court asked.

Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, appearing for Delhi Police, urged the court to defer hearing on the petitions until affected parties are impleaded.

He submitted that he would bring on record a list of issues that survive at this stage in the present petitions.

Lekhi also contended that the aspect of the grant of compensation was a matter of policy and any related disputed question of fact cannot be looked into in a writ proceeding.

The court also questioned if a criminal writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution was maintainable in the present batch of cases in view of the remedy available under the Criminal Code before magisterial courts.

The matter would be heard next on February 16.

The high court is seized of several petitions concerning the 2020 riots in North East Delhi and alleged hate speeches by leaders which led to violence in the backdrop of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Apart from seeking action against those who allegedly gave the hate speeches, some pleas have also sought other reliefs, which include setting up of an SIT, FIRs against police officers who were allegedly involved in the violence, and disclosure of persons arrested and detained.

In its response to these prayers, police had earlier said it had already created three special investigation teams (SIT) under the crime branch and there was no evidence till now that its officers were involved in the violence. The police, in its affidavit earlier, has said that investigations into the North East Delhi riots have not revealed any evidence till now that political leaders instigated or participated in the violence. It had said its prima facie investigations revealed that this was not a case of any sporadic or spontaneous violence “but appears to be a part of a well thought of conspiracy to destabilise the harmony in the society”

The Delhi Police, in an affidavit filed on January 27, has told the high court that the authorities acted promptly, vigilantly, and effectively without any fear or favour and in a professional manner to control law and order situation in the affected areas and to save life and property of people during the 2020 North East Delhi riots.

It has also informed the high court that out of 758 cases, charge sheets have been filed in 367, investigation pending in 384, the cancellation report for closure of cases have been filed in courts in three instances and four have been quashed by the high court.

The petitions were transferred to the present bench from a bench headed by Chief Justice D N through an administrative order of January 28.

Earlier, while asking the parties to collate the issues, the court had noted that the Supreme Court, in an order of December 17, 2021, has requested it to dispose of expeditiously, preferably within three months, a plea seeking registration of FIR against some politicians for their alleged hate speeches which purportedly led to the riots in north-east Delhi last year.

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