Delhi power tussle: Govt, L-G spar over panel for riots cases

New Delhi: Lieutenant-governor (L-G) Anil Baijal and the Delhi government led by Arvind Kejriwal are again locked in confrontation — this time over the appointment of special public prosecutors (SPPs) in the high court to argue cases related to the communal riots in February and the protests against the citizenship amendment act (CAA).

On July 10, the Delhi police had sent a proposal to the Delhi government recommending the names of six special public prosecutors including Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aman Lekhi to fight 85 cases related to the NE riots and the anti-CAA protests in the high court.

However, the tussle began on Tuesday (July 14) when deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, who currently also has temporary charge of the home department, rejected the Delhi police’s proposal, government officials said. “The proposal was rejected by the deputy chief minister saying that Delhi government’s counsel Rahul Mehra and his team were capable enough of handling the cases,” said the official on condition of anonymity.

The same day after Sisodia dismissed the Delhi police’s panel and sent back the file, the L-G summoned the file using his special powers, another official said.

When contacted, neither the Delhi government nor the L-G office gave any official statement on the matter.

The face-off comes barely a month after the L-G and the elected government in Delhi had strong disagreements with regard to the appointment of 11 public prosecutors appointed by the Delhi police in the lower courts for over 750 northeast Delhi riots cases. The L-G then had decided to refer the matter to President Ram Nath Kovind, citing persistent “difference of opinion” , following which the then home minister Satyendar Jain has approved the Delhi Police’s panel.

Documents seen by HT suggest the confrontation, brewing since April, is over whose panel of public prosecutors should represent the state in the trials pertaining to the northeast Delhi riots, which claimed 53 lives and left over 400 injured. So far, the police have registered 752 FIRs and arrested 1,300 people in connection with the Hindu-Muslim violence.

In the last controversy, the L-G, in a string of written communication between him and the Kejriwal government, had stated that the panel proposed by the Delhi Police should be notified and allowed to fight the cases because the riots “disturbed public order” in the capital and “effective prosecution” was needed “to restore faith of the general public and in the Delhi government”.

The Kejriwal government wanted its own panel of “independent and technically qualified” special public prosecutors to be appointed to represent the state.

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