HC vacates stay on bail to school owner in Delhi violence case amid Centre, AAP govt tussle

The Delhi Police had on June 3 filed a charge sheet before a trial court against Farooq and 17 others in the incident in which the building of a private school was burnt down in NE Delhi

HC vacates stay on bail to school owner in Delhi violence case amid Centre, AAP govt tussle

New Delhi, July 2

The Delhi High Court on Thursday vacated its interim stay on the bail granted to a private school owner in a north-east Delhi riots case as the counsels for the Centre and the AAP government could not agree on who was representing the police.

Justice Suresh Kait said the controversy over who would represent Delhi Police in the matter had been going on since June 22, the first day of hearing, and was likely to continue and if the stay remaineded in force, it would prejudice the accused.

“This cannot continue like this,” the judge said and vacated the interim order of June 22 which had directed not to release the school owner Faisal Farooq.

The high court also directed all counsels to give their written arguments on the issue of who will represent Delhi Police in the matter and listed it for hearing on July 22.

The June 22 order had come on the police plea challenging a June 20 order of a trial court granting bail to Farooq.

The controversy over who will represent the police in the instant case continued to plague the matter with lawyers of the Centre and AAP government continuing to oppose each other’s claims regarding representing the probe agency.

Additional Solicitor-General (ASG) Aman Lekhi contended that he has a letter from the Lieutenant Governor authorising him to appear in the matter and placed the communication before the court.

The contention was vehemently opposed by Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra, who said the July 1 letter was issued illegally as the LG took the decision without aid and advise of the Council of Ministers.

Mehra said there were judgements of the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court which clearly said the LG could not appoint special prosecutors without aid and advise of the Council of Ministers.

Opposing Mehra’s arguments, Lekhi said that the Apex Court and HC judgements he was referring to did not pertain to appointment of a law officer of the Attorney General’s office to appear in a criminal matter as a prosecutor.

The judgements pertained to appointment of private lawyers as special prosecutors, Lekhi said.

He said Mehra’s reliance on those judgements were “utterly and totally misconceived” as facts in those decisions were totally different from the instant case.

The ASG further argued that it was “outrageous” to say that the Central Government needed to take the state government’s permission to appoint a law officer as a special prosecutor in matters in which the Centre is “interested”.

He also said a client had the right to decide whom to appoint to represent it.

Countering the ASG’s arguments, Mehra said these were “diversionary tactics” of the Central Government law officer.

“They are impersonating the state. Under which provision of law is it permitted? If this is allowed, it will happen in Bengal, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh..,” he said.

Mehra further argued that the Delhi Police were not like an ordinary client and it could not choose whom to hire to represent it.

“If the police start to choose its lawyers, then investigation and prosecution would be hand-in-glove. Prosecutors would become mouth piece of the investigation,” he said and added that this was not permitted under the criminal procedure law.

After hearing their arguments, Justice Kait said that this controversy first cropped up on June 22, when the matter was first heard, and “the said issue continued till date”.

The judge further said apart from the instant case, Farooq was also arrested in another FIR and if he sought bail in that matter and was granted the relief, the June 22 order would prejudice him.

Justice Kait, thereafter, proceeded to vacate the June 22 order.

The ASG urged the judge not to do so, saying it would have serious consequences, but Justice Kait did not agree with him.

On Wednesday, the high court had directed the Central Government counsel, Amit Mahajan, to show that he was appointed by the Lieutenant Governor to represent the probe agency in the matter.

The July 1 letter placed before the court on Thursday indicated that apart from Mahajan and Lekhi, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta and other law officers were also appointed by LG to represent the police in the instant matter.

In the instant case, Farooq, owner of the Rajdhani School in Shiv Vihar locality, was among the 18 arrested for alleged involvement in burning and damaging property of the adjacent DRP Convent School.

The Delhi Police had on June 3 filed a charge sheet before a trial court against Farooq and 17 others in the incident in which the building of a private school was burnt down in North East Delhi.

The trial court, in its bail order, had noted that the charge sheet filed against him in the case was bereft of material showing his alleged links with the Popular Front of India, Pinjra Tod group and Muslim clerics.

It had directed Farooq to surrender his passport and not leave the National Capital Region without permission of the court. He should mark his attendance on every alternate Wednesday at the police station concerned. It also asked him not to tamper with evidence or influence the witnesses.

The Crime Branch of the Delhi Police had filed the charge sheet against the accused for allegedly conspiring with the Popular Front of India, Pinjra Tod group, Jamia Coordination Committee and Hazrat Nizamuddin Markaz for creating riots, in and around his school.

It has also been alleged that protestors against the CAA had received funds from the PFI, formed in 2006 in Kerala as a successor to the National Democratic Front (NDF). PTI