Delhi Lieutenant Governor and the Centre have told the Delhi High Court that the LG appointed Special Public Prosecutors (SPP) for last year's Republic Day violence and 2020 riots cases in the interest of efficient, fair and just trial as the two sets of cases are of “grave national concern”.
In their common response to the petition by the Delhi government challenging the appointment of Delhi Police chosen lawyers as SPPs by the LG, they said that since both the cases arose directly from laws of the Parliament i.e. the citizenship amendment and farm laws, the LG, being a delegate of the President, has the “responsibility to have a more active role in those matters”.
They further claimed that the cases are “highly sensitive nature” and relate to “public order” which is excluded from the purview of the Delhi government. Merely because the incidents took place within the geographical jurisdiction of the national capital, it would not suffice to treat those matters as falling under the direct control of the Delhi government, they argued.
Their affidavit stated that while the riots challenged the secular character of the nation, and thus warranted a direct involvement of the Union government in the interest of the nation's unity and integrity, the farmers' protests spanned the entire country and attracted a lot of international attention.
“The unfortunate incidents of violence did lead to disturbance of public order and a loss of life and property (in the Northeast Delhi communal riots case) and the then continuing farmers agitation and unfortunate incident of violence has prompted a need for efficient, fair and just prosecution (of cases) to retain the faith in the country's law and order machinery,” said the common affidavit filed by the Special Secretary to LG.
“The 'public order' expressly involves cognizance of offences, search, seizure and arrest, followed by registration of FIRs, investigation, prosecution and trial. The wide amplitude provided to the meaning of this term includes the appointment of special prosecutors for an efficient and just prosecution of the cases so registered,” it added.
In its petition, the Delhi government has challenged the LG order appointing Delhi Police chosen lawyers as SPPs to appear and conduct prosecution in cases relating to violence during the farmers' tractor rally on January 26 last year and northeast Delhi riots cases of February 2020, saying that it results in a serious conflict of interest.
“The appointment of additional SPPs have been recommended by the answering respondent No.1 (LG) for an efficient, speedy and just prosecution of the cases which are highly sensitive in nature,” the affidavit said.
“The two sets of cases involve matters of grave national concern. The Lieutenant Governor while acting as the administrator of the Union Territory of Delhi is in the position of a delegate of the President. Hence, in matters where issues have arisen directly from laws enacted by the Parliament, the Lieutenant Governor i.e the answering respondent No.1 has the responsibility to have a more active role in those matters,” it added.
The affidavit also asserted that the rules allowed both the central and the state governments to appoint SPP for specific cases and the “timeline of processing of appointment of SPPs” in the present case would show that the LG, while abiding by the mandate of the Supreme Court and the Transaction of Business Rules 1993, made sufficient efforts to resolve the difference of opinion with the Council of Ministers and exercised powers under Article 239 AA (4) proviso of the Constitution to refer the issue to the President.
The Delhi government, in its plea, contended that 'appointment of SPPs' is a routine matter and not an exceptional matter for which reference to the President can be made and that the LG had no sound reason for referring the matter to the President when the government had agreed to appoint independent SPPs.
It has said the SPPs are taking charge of the matters by displacing the regular public prosecutors and therefore, urgent directions are required from the court to enable them to continue so as to not jeopardise fair trial in the cases. On August 27 last year, the court had issued notice on the Delhi government's plea asked the LG and the Centre to file response to the petition as well as an application seeking stay on the decision.
With inputs from PTI.