Delhi riots: HC issues notice on plea challenging appointment of special public prosecutors

The Delhi high court on Monday issued notice on a plea challenging the appointment of Special Public Prosecutor (SPPs), including Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, in cases pertaining to north-east Delhi riots, adding that the matter would require a response from the authorities concerned.

Justice Navin Chawla, while seeking the response of the Delhi government and the city police, also asked the petitioners— Delhi Prosecutors Welfare Association (DPWA)—to implead Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the plea after Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain said the Centre had taken the decision and hence they should be a party to the proceedings.

The petition, filed through advocates —Kushal Kumar and Aditya Kapoor of Erudite Legal Partners — has sought quashing of Delhi government’s June 24 notification appointing the 11 SPPs on the ground that it was issued on police recommendations, in violation of the scheme provided under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). It has also sought appointment of independent SPPs by “respecting the principles of fairness and impartiality”.

Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Vikas Pahwa contended that a public prosecutor is an independent person and cannot be appointed by the police themselves. He submitted that the police cannot decide as to who would represent them otherwise the purpose of free trial is defeated. In this case, he said, even the remuneration to be given to the SPPs would be given from the accounts of Delhi police which is not correct as the same should come from either the MHA or the Delhi government.

“The very purpose of the prosecution is that it should be insulated and independent of the police. These kind of appointments have been quashed in the past by the Supreme Court as well,” he said.

Representing the Delhi police, ASG Jain said the decision was taken by the MHA and hence it would not be able to proceed without the Centre being heard in the matter.

Following this, the court impleaded the MHA and issued notice to the authorities seeking their response by January 12.

According to the petition, the proposal of the Delhi Police to appoint SPPs was initially rejected by the Delhi government which decided to appoint SPPs from the empanelled advocates. A revised proposal forwarded by the police was also rejected by the Delhi government, the plea has said, adding that subsequently, the Lt Governor intervened and decided to proceed with the names recommended by the police.

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