Advancing the hearing in the Delhi riots cases by nearly six weeks, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Delhi high court to take up on March 6 the public interest litigation seeking lodging of first information reports against some Bharatiya Janata Party leaders for alleged hate speeches, observing a long adjournment in such matters is 'not justified'.
The Delhi high court had on February 27 adjourned till April 13 hearing the PIL filed by activists Harsh Mander and Farah Naqvi for FIRs against BJP leaders Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra and Parvesh Verma for their alleged hate speeches in connection with protests over the amended Citizenship law.
A high court bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar ordered the adjournment, a day after a different bench headed by Justice S Muralidhar expressed anguish over the police failure to register the FIRs and asked the Delhi police commissioner to take a 'conscious decision' on it by February 27.
The apex court said the high court may also explore the possibility of a 'peaceful resolution' of the issue.
Noting that it 'wants to see if peace is possible', a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said it was not questioning the high court for adjourning the Delhi riots cases for April 13 and asked it to hear these petitions on March 6.
"We are not on the merits. We think adjournment by the high court for such a long period was not necessary and was not justified," said the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant.
"As a matter of judicial discipline, we do not want to assume the jurisdiction of the high court as it is seized of the matter," the bench said, and made it clear it does not intend to say that high court was not justified in adjourning the case.
The bench requested the chief justice of the high court to dispose of these matters "as expeditiously as possible" on their own merits and in accordance with law and also advance the hearing on other related pleas.
The bench directed that the hearing on other connected matters along with all the applications for impleadment and intervention on the issue, which have been adjourned to a later date by high court, may be advanced and be taken up on March 6.
"The high court may also explore the possibility of peaceful resolution of the subject dispute," the bench said in its order on a plea by 10 riot victims for registration of FIRs against some BJP leaders and others for their alleged hate speeches.
However, the apex court kept to itself the issue related to the allegations of hate speech by activist Harsh Mander, who has also filed a separate plea before it related to the riots in which at least 42 people lost their lives and over 200 injured.
It asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to file an affidavit during the day on behalf of the Centre giving details regarding allegations of the hate speech delivered by Mander, who had purportedly made objectionable comments during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests about the Supreme Court, Government and Parliament.
Mehta told the bench that Mander had 'instigated anti-CAA protestors saying that ultimately justice will be done on the streets and the petition in the apex court has been filed for the sake of filing'.
Mander's lawyer, Karuna Nundy, vehemently denied the allegations and said he had not made any hate speech.
The court, however, was of the view that unless the issue of alleged hate speech is 'not sorted', it will not allow Mander's counsel to argue his petition which will now be heard by the top court itself on March 6.
At the outset, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the 10 riots victims, claimed that the four BJP leaders -- Anurag Thakur, Kapil Mishra Parvesh Verma and Abhay Verma-- are "still roaming free" despite making hate speeches which led to the violence.
"It is possible that you register FIRs against one side only then situation may aggravate. It cannot aggravate if you register FIRs against people from both the sides," the bench told Mehta.
Mehta said petitioners were 'abusing the forum' of court and alleged hate speeches referred by them were made in January and February and have been selectively used.
When Nundy said persons have also made hate speeches at Rajiv Chowk metro station here, the bench said, "We are told that you (Mander) have made certain remarks against this court as well. We want to know who all have violated the majesty of law. Have you also violated the majesty of law?".
"Despite careful use of words, we hear so many things about us," the CJI said.
Gonsalves referred to the alleged hate speech by Kapil Mishra and said after he made these statements, the violence broke out.
When Gonsalves said riots could have been avoided if the police had caught the 'main persons' who had given hate speeches, the CJI responded by saying, "We also have some experience of riots."
Gonsalves also said he was "demoralised" when the high court had adjourned the matter to April 13.