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The Court was hearing former Congress Municipal Councilor Ishrat Jahan's petition challenging the extension of statutory period to conclude the investigation in a Delhi Riots case by 60 days.
Following objections on the status report being filed through a Central Government counsel, the Delhi High Court today allowed Delhi Government Standing Counsel (Criminal) Rahul Mehra to file status report in a Delhi riots case. (Ishrat Jahan vs State)
The Court also directed the Investigating Officer, Delhi Police to instruct Mehra on the report and filing of written submissions.
A Single Judge Bench of Justice Suresh Kait was hearing the petition by former Congress Municipal Councilor Ishrat Jahan who was arrested by Delhi Police in one of the Delhi riots FIR i.e. 59/2020 on March 21.
In her petition before the Court, Ishrat Jahan has challenged the extension of statutory period to conclude the investigation in a Delhi Riots case by 60 days.
On the last day of hearing, the Court had directed the Delhi Police to file its response/status report in the matter.
When the matter came up for hearing today, Delhi Government Standing Counsel (Criminal) Rahul Mehra raised objections on the status report being filed through Central Government counsel Amit Mahajan.
While raising objections qua the appointment of Mahajan as a counsel of Delhi Police, Mehra stated that all status reports ought to be routed through the office of the Standing Counsel.
He brought the Court's attention to an order passed by a Division Bench of the Court in another Delhi riots case titled Aqil Hussian vs State & Ors, wherein the Central Government had duly obtained the requisite approvals from the Delhi Government on the appointment of Special Counsel by the Central Government.
He specifically referred to the portion which recorded that the "procedural aspect" of routing Delhi Police's responses through the office of the Standing Counsel (Criminal) "would be taken care of in future" by the Central Government.
In response to the objections, Central Government counsel Amit Mahajan stated that his appointment as a special counsel in the matter had been cleared by the Lieutenant General, Delhi.
Mahajan added that although an assurance was given before the Division Bench with respect to the filing of status reports, it was later found that there was no procedure in law which mandated that status report by Police has to be routed through the office of Standing Counsel (criminal).
It is only a matter of practice, he said.
Majahan also pointed out that in the past, certain status reports were not even approved by the office of the Standing Counsel.
Arguing that a status report could be filed by the Police directly as well, without coming through the Standing Counsel, Mahajan stated that the role of Prosecutor at the stage of investigation was very limited.
"Yes, I am not a puppet. I have to apply my mind.. I probe my officers. I do not blindly follow what they ask me to do. I am not a mouthpiece..", Mehra replied.
Mehra asserted that as a Standing Counsel, his allegiance was to the Court and not to the Police or the accused or the complainant.
After hearing the parties, the Court observed that the issue of whether the Lt-G was empowered to appoint special counsel without the aid and advise of the council of ministers was pending adjudication in another petition i.e. Faisal Farooq's bail cancellation case.
Considering that it was admittedly a matter of practice that all status reports were routed through the office of the Standing Counsel (Criminal), the Court directed Mehra to file the same in the present case within four days.
The Court directed the Investigating Officer to instruct Mehra in this regard.
"Whether Mr Majahan is legally authorized, this Court shall not make comments since the issue is already pending.", the Court clarified.
The matter would be heard next on July 15.