Supreme Court asks High Court to list Delhi riots cases on March 6

Supreme Court says High Court delay in hearing the pleas ‘unjustified’.

Updated - December 03, 2021 06:54 am IST

Published - March 04, 2020 06:55 pm IST - New Delhi

A view of the Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi. File

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it was “unjustified” on the part of the Delhi High Court to delay hearing the pleas for arrest and prosecution of leaders who instigated the communal rampage in the National Capital and directed the High Court to list the petitions on Friday (March 6).


Less than a week ago, the High Court adjourned to April 13 the hearing of petitions seeking immediate registration of FIRs against those who egged mobs on with their hate speeches. It had seemed to agree with the government that the “atmosphere was not conducive” for action.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde said April 13 was too far away . It requested Delhi High Court Chief Justice D.N. Patel to decide the petitions “as expeditiously as possible”.

With this, the Supreme Court signed off the case, saying it did not want to “assume jurisdiction” over the petitions when the High Court was already on the job.

In parting, the CJI wished the High Court to explore the possibility of finding a “peaceful resolution” to pleas made by victims to prosecute the instigators.

Read: Editorial | A test of governance

The CJI even suggested that victims, represented by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, put up names of their leaders before the High Court in order to initiate a peace parley with the other side and the ruling BJP. This is when victims had made specific allegations against BJP leaders Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Abhay Verma of instigating violence. Mr. Thakur is a Minister of State for Finance.

“We want to see if peace is possible,” Chief Justice Bobde reasoned.

At one point during the hearing, before the decision to revert the petitions to the High Court was made, Chief Justice Bobde took on Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Delhi Police.

When Mr. Mehta submitted that the situation in Delhi was presently calm, the CJI asked why FIRs could not be registered immediately.

Also read | Strict action should be taken against those involved in Delhi riots: Anurag Thakur

“You had earlier said the atmosphere is not conducive… If it is calm now, there will not be a problem to register the FIRs” the CJI asked Mr. Mehta.

SG’s contention

The top law officer countered that the registration of FIRs and arrest of leaders of communities may lead to a flare-up.

The CJI persisted, saying “there may not be a flare-up if the police arrest leaders from both sides… FIRs, after all, do not prejudice anybody's rights. Registration of an FIR does what to a man? Nothing!”

The third judge on the Bench, Justice Surya Kant, agreed with the CJI. “Registration of FIR helps the police,” he said.

Mr. Mehta submitted, “But there may be an aggravation on both sides too. There were speeches from both sides… It should be left to us to act at the appropriate time… Permit us to take the decision”. He said 468 FIRs had been filed against rioters.

Chief Justice Bobde appeared to then agree with Mr. Mehta’s logic that leaders’ arrest may lead to renewal of violence.

“We also have some experience of riots. Sometimes, there may be a flare-up when leaders are arrested. You know what happened in the Bombay riots... When Shakha Pramukhs were arrested, it flared up. Bombay riots were worse than this,” Chief Justice Bobde turned and told Mr. Gonsalves, before passing the petitions to the High Court.

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