Lives would have been saved and the spiral of communal mob violence stopped had the police acted on time to stop people from making inflammatory remarks, Supreme Court judge K.M. Joseph hit out at the Delhi Police on Wednesday.
When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta tried to hush the judge lest his oral remarks may “demoralise the police” during these tense times, Justice Joseph said, “I will say!”
Both Justices S.K. Kaul and Joseph told Mr. Mehta there was no harm in hearing them out first.
“Lack of professionalism of the police is the main problem here. If you had not allowed people to get away after inflammatory remarks, all this would not have happened. If you act the way law requires to act, you will see the difference,” Justice Joseph observed orally.
“One of my constables has died. My DCP is injured. He is on ventilator. Let us not demoralise the police by saying anything now. We do not know what the situation on the ground is,” Mr. Mehta kept repeating.
“This will happen if you allow people to get away. Unless you get the police to act, there will be no difference. Look at how police acts in the U.K. Do they require somebody’s nod? If somebody makes an inflammatory remark, police swings into action immediately,” Justice Joseph responded.
Justice Kaul said what had happened (the riots) in the last few days had been “unfortunate”.
But Mr. Mehta urged Justice Kaul to refrain from using the term “unfortunate” as it may “legitimise” whatever had happened.
“Who can deny that whatever has happened is not unfortunate? Yes, many unfortunate things have happened. It should not have happened,” Justice Kaul addressed the law officer for the government.
“Of course… But you have to know the ‘whys’, ‘hows’ and ‘whats’,” Mr. Mehta responded.
Both Justices Kaul and Joseph, however, conveyed their “absolute” opposition to the “expression of dissent in violence”. Justice Kaul said contrarian views should be debated without violence.
Advocate Mehmood Pracha, one of the lawyers present, said, “Houses are being burnt even as we talk”.
The court was hearing a petition filed by advocate Amit Sahni to shift the Shaheen Bagh protesters to an alternative site as they had been “blocking” public movement and causing traffic snarls in the area.
The court said it would not “expand the scope of the petition”. The Bench was responding to applications filed recently by intervenors, former Wajahat Habibullah and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, to provide protection to the Shaheen Bagh protesters.
The apex court did not pass any interim orders on the application and left it to the Delhi High Court to look into the issue. The High Court has already taken cognisance of the issue. It had held a midnight hearing.
Last week, the Supreme Court had appointed interlocutors — senior advocate Sanjay Hegde and advocate Sadhana Ramachandran — to coax the protesters to shift.
However, Justice Kaul indicated that interlocutors’ report was inconclusive. “ There are too many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’,” he said.
The court refrained from intervening further, saying this may not be the right to time to pass any further orders on the petition seeking to remove the protesters.
The next date of hearing is March 23.
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