NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to grant interim protection from coercive action to two women students of Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI) University in relation to the violence during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
The hearing in the matter also witnessed a heated exchange of words between Delhi government standing counsel and the top law officers of the country.
The arguments took place during the hearing of a petition, filed by lawyer Nabila Hasan and JMI students Ladida Farzana and Ayesh Renna, which sought direction to the authorities to release students and residents who were allegedly detained during the recent protests.
Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra said though he represents Delhi Police, he does not have any instructions on the matter and according to him, the petitioners were women with no criminal antecedents and they should be given interim protection from coercive action.
However, this did not go well with Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who said he was appearing for all including Centre and Delhi Police and the submission made by Mehra was unfortunate.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru said only an oral prayer was made by the petitioners' counsel, who have filed a petition for the release of detained students and residents of JMI University and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), and no material has been placed on record.
The judge transferred to high court Chief Justice DN Patel the plea for Thursday after it was informed by the Centre's counsel that the Supreme Court on Tuesday had said that the cases relating to CAA violence be heard by the Chief Justices of respective high courts.
Advocate Siddharth Seem, appearing for the petitioners, said the two women students were apprehending action and orally prayed that as an interim measure, no coercive step be taken against them till the plea is heard on Thursday.
The oral prayer was opposed by Mehta who said the judge should transfer the matter to the chief justice and they will argue it there and no interim order be passed as their side of the story has not been heard yet.
Mehta and Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi apprised the high court about the Supreme Court's Tuesday order in which it was recorded, "We are confident that the Chief Justices of the concerned High Courts after hearing the parties, if found appropriate will cause interference to be made by considering appointing appropriate Committees, comprising former Judges of this Court or the High Court."
Justice Bakhru said the matter is required to be heard by the Chief Justice and "accordingly, list the petition before the chief justice on December 19". The judge added if there is any precipitate action this court is open for the petitioners to file an appropriate application along with cogent material.
During the hearing, the petitioners' counsel said FIRs filed by the police in relation to the violence may have an effect on these women and the court may grant interim protection to them.
Lekhi contended there was no apprehension of any coercive action and told the court that two other petitions relating to protests against the CAA have been mentioned before a bench headed by the chief justice and they would come up for hearing on Thursday.
The petition, which has arrayed the Central government and Delhi Police as parties, sought direction to the authorities to release all the students and residents who were allegedly detained.
The plea was filed in the high court in pursuance to the Supreme Court's directive asking the petitioners to approach the high courts in respective states, where the incidents of violence have occurred, for redressal of their grievances and the setting up of inquiry committees.
It sought direction to the authorities to declare on their website full list with names of students and residents of JMI and AMU who were allegedly detained by state police and paramilitary forces.
The plea, filed through advocates Sneha Mukherjee and Siddharth Seem, sought direction to "immediately cease the violence being inflicted on to the students and residents of the two universities" and to quash the criminal proceedings initiated against the students.
It further sought to preserve the CCTV footage of all cameras in and around the universities and to provide monetary compensation to the persons who were detained or injured by the police and paramilitary forces.
The petition sought direction to the authorities to "set up a court-monitored committee headed by a retired high court or Supreme Court judge that shall conduct judicial inquiry into the acts of violence and arbitrary detentions by the state police and paramilitary forces in a time-bound manner".
On December 15, the protestors had torched four public buses and two police vehicles as they clashed with police in New Friends' Colony near Jamia University during a demonstration against the amended Act, leaving six cops and two firemen injured. The trouble started during a protest by JMI students.
According to the amended Citizenship Act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 and face religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
President Ram Nath Kovind had given assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 12 night, turning it into an Act.