The Delhi government has refused to accept the panel of advocates headed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the purposes of representing the Delhi Police in the Delhi riots cases.
A decision to this effect was taken by the Delhi government's Cabinet today after the Lieutenant Governor granted a week's time to decide on the Delhi Police's proposal pertaining to the appointment of "six senior lawyers" as "special counsel" for as many as 85 Delhi riots cases before the High Court and the Supreme Court.
Apart from Solicitor General Mehta, the panel includes Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, Standing Counsel Amit Mahajan and Advocate Rajat Nair.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government Cabinet refused to accept the recommendation on the ground that the Prosecution and Investigating Agency should be distinct and independent of each other.
The Cabinet took notice of the "questions raised by several courts against bias in Delhi Police's actions" and observed that it is not possible to expect "free and fair trial by lawyers appointed by Delhi Police".
Acknowledging that the Delhi riots cases were "critical", the Delhi government has now recommended its Home Department to constitute a panel of the nation's best advocates to represent the Delhi Police.
In a press release issued today, the AAP government also remarked that it was unfortunate that the Lt Governor was "repeatedly interfering" in the decision of appointment of the panel of lawyers.
Justifying its power to appoint prosecutors, the government has stated,
"..Section 24 of the CrPC also mentions that the Delhi government has the right to appoint public prosecutors. Under the Constitution, the Hon'ble Lieutenant Governor of Delhi has special powers to intervene and overturn any decision of the elected government of Delhi. But the Supreme Court has said that the Hon'ble Lieutenant Governor can exercise this right only in the rarest of rare cases. Otherwise, it is against the spirit of democracy. Appointment of a panel of lawyers does not fall into any rare category and it is a normal procedure. For this reason, the Delhi government is fully empowered to appoint lawyers."
The question of who would represent the Delhi Police in the riots cases has continuously been posed before the Delhi High Court over the past couple of months.
In one of the cases, Solicitor General Mehta even sought permission to withdraw his name from the case after Standing Counsel for Delhi Government argued that the Central Government had no power to appear in the matter.