Call to Action
Judiciary rose to the occasion, time for law enforcement machinery to do the same
In a time when it was most needed, the judiciary lived up to its role, quite unlike the police. From the late-night Tuesday hearing to Wednesday court sessions, the Delhi High Court took cognisance of the whole disharmony that has engulfed the northeast part of the National Capital. With more than 20 people dead over the clash between pro and anti-CAA groups, the Capital has entered a critical stage of social disorder, dangerously outlining fears of widespread communal violence. In the late-night hearing at Justice S Muralidhar's residence, responding to the writ petition filed, the former instructed the Delhi Police to ensure safe passage for the injured to medical institutions with adequate facilities and demanded a compliance report citing information about the injured and the treatment offered to them. The Court's directive should ideally not be required here given the role of police in aiding the injured besides controlling clashes and restraining the perpetrators. The need for a late-night writ petition exclusively 'seeking safe passage for the injured to medical institutions' describes the police's laxity in the event of abject violence in localities of northeast Delhi. The violence between the two groups that sparked on Sunday should have been brought under control by the police by Monday and yet Tuesday night a High Court Judge has to direct the police to do its job after a complaint has been brought to his doorstep. In yesterday's proceedings, the Delhi High Court took account of BJP leader Kapil Mishra's incendiary speech in northeast Delhi's Maujpur locality on Sunday afternoon. It should be noted that it was Kapil Mishra's statements made standing 'beside a DCP' in a gathering in support of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act that is the noticeable impetus to the violence that erupted on Sunday evening. While Mishra's video was circulated all over the media, it was strange of Delhi Police and funny of the latter's counsel, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, to have not seen it. It is appalling because no FIR has been filed against Kapil Mishra for his speech. But it is also likely since the Delhi Police, apparently, had not seen the speech itself. The Delhi High Court pressed for the urgency in filing FIR against such hate speeches while grilling the SG and Delhi Police for not doing the same yet. The Court highlighted an important aspect here. If the Police indeed delays in filing FIR, it sets a dangerous precedent that shall see no deterrence from making hate speeches — which instigates the crowd and facilitate violence. The Police ought to simply follow the due procedure that is laid out for situations such as the one prevailing in Delhi. Police's callous regard towards the culprits will only aggravate the situation as it has in Delhi. Further, SG's push for more time to file the FIR is absolutely condemnable. Asking for more time after failing to file the FIR on the first instance itself is even worse for state machinery charged with the maintenance of law and order in society. It marks a careless attitude that has perilous consequences. The Delhi High Court, rightly appalled at the Delhi Police's state of affairs, directed the latter to take a conscious decision in regard to the filing of FIRs against three hate speeches by BJP leaders — Anurag Thakur, Pravesh Verma and Kapil Mishra — in connection with the CAA violence in the Capital and inform by today. Absence to do so by the Delhi Police would only further damage their stature.
In a separate hearing, even the Supreme Court showed dissatisfaction over the functioning of police machinery in Delhi. It questioned the Central government over its failure in ensuring the professionalism of the Delhi Police, selectively outlining the latter's failure to perform as per the law without taking instructions from anyone. The two-judge bench of SK Kaul and KM Joseph reprimanded the Delhi Police for its failure in acting against the inflammatory speeches that could have saved the lives lost in the clashes over CAA. The SC bench, otherwise scheduled for the hearing of the Shaheen Bagh road blockade, took cognisance of the violence that has shocked everyone's conscience. Justice Joseph cited examples of police in US and UK and established the fact that Delhi Police has failed to serve the purpose on several accounts by not swinging into action when the situation demanded. The statement from Justice Joseph aptly highlights the glaring hole in the law-enforcing administration. In light of the violence in northeast Delhi, the Supreme Court bench asserted that the environment is not conducive to hear plea against Shaheen Bagh protest and deferred the hearing to March 25. In opting for the status quo, the Supreme Court has allowed the protests at Shaheen Bagh to continue, as the Court prepares to assess the constitutionality of the CAA.
On all three accounts, the judiciary mandated what should have normally been the due course of action on Delhi Police's part in the wake of the massive violence that erupted Sunday evening. With more than 20 casualties and over 180 injured, the situation is so alarming that it calls for army intervention. And yet, assurances of the situation being under control from the Union Home Ministry reverberate. Union Home Ministry should not have claimed control over the situation on Monday evening when the violence continued across Tuesday and Wednesday. The claim only blemishes their reputation. Given the vast pool of law enforcement agencies that it has under its belt, it is appalling on Union Home Ministry's part in failing to control violence happening under its nose for so many days. While Police failure has been outlined, inflammatory speeches did not curb. On Tuesday, another BJP leader, MLA Abhay Verma from Delhi's Laxmi Nagar area, was seen leading a crowd of his supporters chanting the controversial "shoot the traitors" slogan used for anti-Citizenship Act protestors. In the continuing account of ruling party leaders spewing hatred in society and city police finding itself in a self-inflicted limbo, the Union Home Ministry is treading a dangerous line. Rather than swinging into action and restraining public violence and destruction of property, the Minister of State for Home Affairs asserted that Delhi riots were aimed at tarnishing India's image during US President Donald Trump's visit. When the situation demands emergency action in restraining riots, deliberating on the nature of riots and protestors should not be the prime concern. Rhetorics in political spaces will not be of any good to public unrest. If anything, it will only aggravate the situation by inaction on the law-enforcement machinery's part. The Delhi High Court correctly observed how it cannot allow a repeat of 1984 under its watch. India has learnt enough lessons in 1984 (Delhi), 1992 (Bombay) and 2002 (Gujarat) over riots. In fact, communal tension that stems from British times had perhaps the biggest flashpoint during partition that serves as an eternal lesson for the Indian administration to exercise absolute restraint and deploy all resources at its disposal to prevent communal violence. Yet, in 2020, we see the resurgence of a historical evil and remain in shock of the state failing to prevent it, and control as well.
The judiciary has risen to the occasion and mandated that the Delhi Police does as well. Home Ministry has to take an urgent assessment of affairs and deploy as many troops required to prevent any further escalation. Given its capacity to safeguard and develop the large state of Jammu and Kashmir under the strict watch of Indian Armed Forces, securing the National Capital should not take much time. Urgent calm is needed and it must be brought.