His Master's Voice

Tushar Mehta holds court

gajendra yadav / indian express archive
gajendra yadav / indian express archive
01 October, 2020


TUSHAR MEHTA STOOD before a bench of S Muralidhar and Talwant Singh in the Delhi High Court. It was half past noon on 26 February, and Mehta had just rushed in.

Two petitioners had approached the court the previous day, seeking orders for the Delhi Police to register first-information reports against several leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party. For the last three days, Hindu mobs had been marauding through northeastern Delhi, attacking Muslims residents and their businesses and homes. Dozens had already been killed, and attacks continued even as the court convened that day. The BJP leaders had delivered hate-filled, communally charged speeches in the run-up to the violence, which had been recorded and circulated to the point of ubiquity. But the police had refused to act on complaints accusing the BJP leaders of incitement.

The petitioners had asked to be heard the previous day, as soon as they approached the court. DN Patel, the chief justice of the Delhi High Court, was on leave, and a bench led by GN Sistani, the judge second in rank to Patel, did not find the matter urgent enough, despite the continuing violence. Sistani scheduled the petition to be heard in Patel’s court on 26 February.