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Delhi Pogrom – Will Justice Ever be Delivered?

“Every day’s delay in registering an FIR is crucial. The more and more you delay, the more problems are getting created”, said Justice Muralidhar.

The ruinous decimation in the capital that went on for 3 days straight, saw a mostly targeted violence on the Muslim population. Violence spread through many localities in North East Delhi covering a large area including Jaffrabad, Maujpur, Chand Bagh, Kardam puri, Bhajanpura, Gokalpuri, Khajuri Khas, Yamuna Vihar and Brijpuri. With dead bodies still being found from the drains even weeks after the violence, one can only imagine the level of carnage that had taken place what was possibly the worst riot Delhi had seen in a decade.

What started from a scornful speech by Bhartiya Janta Party leader Kapil Mishra on 23rd February, where standing beside a police officer he gave an ultimatum of three days to the Delhi police to clear the protesters after which his men will take the matter in their own hands and will not even listen to the police. It soon saw a bloodbath that went on for three days. Hordes of men chanting ‘jai shree ram’ raided the Muslim households in the above-mentioned neighbor hoods. Muslims were hunted down and beaten ruthlessly. Their houses and shops were identified and burned down, not before looting all the valuables from the house like jewelry and money. Among many statements given by the victims, most of them claimed that while these rioters roamed about freely, the police were either the part of the violence or a mere bystander to the bloodbath that took place on the streets of Delhi. They also stated that whatever help they received was by their Hindu neighbors, who kept them safe in their homes while the rioters were burning down their houses.

Apart from that a blasphemous Video emerged from Ashok Nagar where a man could be seen climbing on top of a masjid to plant a saffron flag. When the desecration of masjids wasn’t enough, it was then burnt by bringing in cylinders from the houses nearby. A report later confirmed that a total of 18 masjids were burnt down along with one Mazaar. On 25th when a lot of injured people suffered all day because the rioters wouldn’t let the ambulance or the fire trucks reach the location, an emergency hearing of Delhi High Court was called at midnight to allow services to be made available for the injured and distressed people.

On 26th February, a hearing was held based on the petition filed by the activist Harsh Mander regarding the Delhi violence. The petition was heard by justices S. Muralidhar and Talwant Singh. What became a momentous hearing was initially supposed to be heard by Chief Justice D.N Patel, but as he was absent from the court that day, the case went to Justice S.Muralidhar. among many claims, the petition also alleged that the hateful speech given by Kapil Mishra led a mob, chanting communal slurs to spread violence in the North East Delhi. In the plea, petitioner Harsh Mander had asked for a FIR against Kapil Mishra, Anurag thakur, Paresh Verma and other rioters. Throughout hearing the solicitor general Tushar Mehta was very insistent on adjourning the hearing claiming that it was not an urgent matter. To which justice Muralidhar replied, “isn’t lodging of FIRs against the culprits an urgent matter? There are videos that hundreds of people have watched. Do you still think it’s not an urgent matter?”

SG and the police officer present in the court then claimed that they have not seen any videos of the hateful speeches given by the accused. Voicing his shock, Justice Muralidhar said,”this is really concerning. There are so many TVs in your office, how can police officer say that he hasn’t watched the videos. I am really appalled by the state of affairs of Delhi police”, and then arranged for the video to be played in the court. SG was still very adamant on not filing the FIRs saying, “Today is not the day, this is not the time. The petitioner hasn’t proved as to why he’s only highlighting these three videos as threat to public interest. FIRs will be registered at an appropriate time”. Depreciating the statement, justice s. Muralidhar replied, “what is the appropriate time Mr. Mehta? The city is burning.” After the hearing, the bench gave the Delhi police commissioner a day’s time to take a conscious decision on registering FIR against the politicians on the guidelines in Lalitha Kumari case. “every day’s delay in registering an FIR is crucial. The more and more you delay, the more problems are getting created”, said Justice Muralidhar.

Next day, the matter was heard by a different bench comprising chief justice D.N Patel and justice C. Hari Shankar of Delhi High Court. The approach to the matter by both benches was strikingly dissimilar. Unlike the previous bench, this bench unarguably accepted the submission by SG Tushar Mehta, who repeated his statement from the day before, that the situation was not conducive for the registration of FIRs. The bench then granted four-week time to the union government to file a counter affidavit in the case. Lawyer of the petitioner, senior advocate colin Gonsalves pursued for a closer date stating,”10-12 people are dying every day. A closer date would be appreciated.”

A petition was later heard in Supreme court, one filed by Harsh Mander and Farah Naqvi and the other by some of the residents of North East Delhi. CJI S.A. Bobde, commented on the previous order of Delhi high court that had adjourned the hearing for 4 weeks, saying that such a long period of adjournment was unjustified. The SC then directed the HC to hear the petitions by 7th march.


The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.

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