2020 riots: HC refuses to entertain plea challenging maintainability of petition alleging hate speeches by politicians

New Delhi, Feb 24 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Thursday refused to entertain an application challenging the maintainability of a petition which sought investigation against certain political leaders for allegedly delivering hate speeches which led to violence in February 2020 in the backdrop of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act [CAA].
The court said it was not allowing the intervention application and also refused to keep it pending for future.
“We are telling you our decision, it is dismissed. You are not a necessary or a proper party. We do not propose to allow you to intervene. Don’t try to turn it into a circus. We are not keeping it pending. Your client is a gate crasher,” a bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Anup Jairam Bhambhani said.
The court was hearing an intervention application filed on behalf of a lawyer in a pending petition filed by Shaikh Mujtaba Farooq, seeking registration of a first information report [FIR] and investigation against Bharatiya Janta Party [BJP] leaders Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma and Abhay Verma.
Advocate Pavan Narang, representing the lawyer who filed the application, claimed that petitioner Farooq has no locus standi to file the petition as according to a Supreme Court judgement, public interest litigation [PIL] where the petitioners have not even gone to police should not be entertained,
The counsel alleged that it was not a public interest litigation but a publicity infused litigation.
To this, the bench shot back, “Who are you to say this? You are not a concerned party. Whether it is publicity for the petitioner or for you we do not know. We are conscious of the Supreme Court judgement. We are not permitting you to intervene. Don’t tell us what to do. We know what is the scope of a PIL.”
The court further said, “See the irony of the situation here that the intervenor files a plea that the petition is not maintainable. There is no question of even allowing an impleadment to remain pending. If the petitioner has no locus, then the intervenor should be nowhere in the scene, nowhere around.”
Thereafter, Narang sought to withdraw the application and it was permitted by the bench.
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 CAA.
It had earlier granted time to the petitioners’ advocates for filing of applications for adding as parties certain political leaders to the pleas alleging that they delivered hate speeches which led to the 2020 violence.
Senior advocates Colin Gonsalves and Sonia Mathur, who appeared for petitioners Farooq and Lawyers Voice respectively, said that they have filed applications for the impleadment of the concerned persons to their petitions seeking registration of FIRs against the alleged wrongdoers.
However, as Gonsalves’ application was not on record, the court directed the registry to bring it on record subject to the petitioner removing the objections, and listed the matter for further hearing on February 28.
“These petitions are in the nature of cross PILs. This is the new trend,” the court orally observed.
The other petitioner, Lawyers Voice, has sought the registration of hate speech FIRs against Indian National Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, as well as Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Aam Aadmi Party’s Delhi legislator Amanatullah Khan, All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen [AIMIM] leader Akbaruddin Owaisi and former AIMIM legislator Warris Pathan, and has filed an application for impleading them as respondents in the petition.
Besides them, it has sought to implead activist Harsh Mander, Bollywood actress Swara Bhaskar, student activist Umar Khalid, and several others.
The court said it will hear the impleadment application on February 28.
The court had earlier 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 was required for adjudication.
Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, appearing for Delhi Police, had urged the court to defer hearing on the petitions until affected parties are impleaded, and said he would bring on record a list of issues that survive at this stage in the pleas.
Apart from seeking action against those who allegedly gave the hate speeches, some pleas have also sought other reliefs, which include setting up of a Special Investigation Team [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, the police had earlier said it had already created three SITs 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 investigation into the riots have not revealed any evidence till now that political leaders instigated or participated in the violence.
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 north-east Delhi riots last year.