A long-running tussle between the Centre and Arvind Kejriwal government for control over various agencies played out once again in the Delhi high court, with both claiming the right to represent Delhi police in the JNU sedition case.
As the hearing began on JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar’s bail plea on Tuesday, the Delhi government’s senior standing counsel Rahul Mehra objected to additional solicitors general Tushar Mehta and Sanjay Jain and special public prosecutor Anil Soni representing the city police.
Contending that he was appointed as senior standing counsel by the high court, Mehra told justice Pratibha Rani that he should be allowed to represent Delhi police in the case.
Mehra said the ASGs cannot represent the state and appear for the Delhi police if there was no notification from the lieutenant governor’s office empowering them to appear in the matter.
The city-state follows a complex governance pattern with key departments such as law and order under the L-G, who reports to the Union home ministry. The Kejriwal government has long been demanding that Delhi police be brought under its control for effective policing.
ASG Jain, a Centre’s representative, however, countered the Mehra’s argument saying: “Once the ASGs are appearing in this matter, you have no business to interfere in it.”
Jain said the LG had appointed him and advocate Shailendra Babbar as special public prosecutors in the case.
Mehra shot back saying: “They have crossed all ‘Lakshman rekha’. As a senior standing counsel I am not allowed to argue and they are here on LG’s unofficial order.”
At this point, justice Rani intervened. “Let us not distract from the main issue. This is not a place to settle personal scores”.
This is not the first time that law officers of the Centre and Delhi government are at loggerheads over who should represent Delhi police in criminal cases.
In the high-profile Sagar Ratna shootout case, ASG Jain had questioned the ‘locus’ of AAP-government appointed additional standing counsel (criminal) Richa Kapoor to represent Delhi police in the case saying that he was appointed by the LG to represent Delhi police.
A total of 11 cases arising out of the tussle between the Centre and the Delhi government are being heard together by a bench headed by chief justice G Rohini.
The bone of contention is the Centre’s May 21 notification giving the LG absolute power to appoint bureaucrats in the city.
Along with the May 21 notification, the Delhi government has also challenged the July 23, 2014 notification of the Centre which limited the Anti-Corruption Bureau’s jurisdiction to Delhi government officials only.