The Supreme Court on Wednesday made some crucial oral observations on the riots that have gripped parts of North East Delhi since February 24.
While hearing a petition seeking clearance of Shaheen Bagh road blockade, and also interlocutory applications for Court-monitored probe into reports of police inaction during riots, a bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K M Joseph expressed its concerns about the violence.
"Unfortunate things have happened", remarked Justice Kaul.
Justice KM Joseph said "Regarding police inaction, I want to say certain things. If I don't, I won't be discharging my duty. I have my loyalty towards this institution, towards this country..."
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta then intervened and urged the judge to refrain from making such observations.
"In this environment, you should not make such remarks.. officials will be demoralized", the SG said.
But Justice Joseph continued and observed "The problem is lack of independence and professionalism in police. If this had been done before, this situation would not have risen",
Justice K M Joseph added that he was "disturbed that 13 lives have been lost" (a lawyer in court then informed the bench that the fatalities have now reached 20).
The bench also observed that the guidelines of the Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh case for ensuring independence of police have not been implemented.
Justice Joseph also suggested that Indian police should learn from the UK Police, which swings to immediate action on seeing crime without waiting for the nod of higher officials.
"Look at how police acts in the UK. If somebody makes an inflammatory remarks, they swing into action. They don't wait for orders. Police should not be looking for here and there for nods", Justice Joseph said.
At this juncture, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta intervened saying that it was not the time to raise the issue.
The SG said that a DCP was lynched by the mob and was in ventilator. "We are not aware of the ground realities in which the police officials function", the SG said.
"At such a time, please do not demoralize the police", the Solicitor General pleaded.
The SG also urged the bench to stop the media reporting of the proceedings, by saying that headlines will be made out of judges' observations.
Justice KM Joseph expresses concerns at loss of lives "It is a matter of concern. 13 lives lost..."He is informed that now the fatalities have reached 20.#DelhiRiots— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) February 26, 2020
Justice KM Joseph expresses concerns at loss of lives "It is a matter of concern. 13 lives lost..."He is informed that now the fatalities have reached 20.#DelhiRiots
The bench did not entertain the interlocutory applications filed in the main petition seeking SIT probe into reports of police inaction during Delhi riots. The bench said that the Delhi High Court was already seized of the issue.
At the outset itself, Justice Kaul said that the bench was not intending to expand the scope of the case (which is for clearance of Shaheen Bagh road blockade) by entertaining the interlocutory applications.
Regarding the interlocutor's report, the bench said that it will examine the same later, as the "environment now was not conducive". The petition has been adjourned till March 23.
Following the directions of the Supreme Court passed on February 17, Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde and Advocate Sadhana Ramachandran had talked to Shaheen Bagh protesters as interlocutors regarding shifting of the protest to alternate locations so as to clear the road for passage.