New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday declined to set up a committee of a retired apex court judge to inquire into the incidents of violent protests in different parts of the country against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and said that such panels may be appointed by the high courts concerned.
It directed all the petitioners to approach high courts in respective states, where the incidents of violence have occurred, for redressal of their grievances and the setting up of inquiry committees.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde noted in its order that each fact alleged by the petitioners is disputed, on behalf of the Centre, by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
Two main concerns of the petitioners have been that the students were indiscriminately arrested and they are injured and not getting proper medical treatment, the bench noted.
The Solicitor General stated however that only two students from Aligarh Muslim University have been hospitalised and they are being treated at the University hospital itself and were not injured by the police, which was contested by the petitioners.
Taking note of the allegations and counter-allegations, the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, said: "Regarding the nature of the dispute and the incidents that have occurred we find it appropriate to appoint single committee in each state to collect the material for fact finding and we therefore consider this appropriate to direct the petitioners to approach the high courts of jurisdiction of incidents said to have occurred.
"We are confident that the Chief Justices of various high courts will call upon for inquiry, if needed, while appointing a committee including a former judge of the apex court or high court after hearing the union of India and respective states"
The bench clarified that it is needless to say that "high court will be at liberty to pass appropriate order with regard to arrest and medical treatment if brought to its notice after verification".
The bench noted that serious grievance has been raised by the petitioners that Vice Chancellors of the Universities concerned were being ignored by police while taking action against the students.
The bench also took on record that this fact is also denied by Solicitor General.
"We are sure that high court will look into all the aspects of the matter after hearing both sides and appointing appropriate committee to determine the fact finding".
The Solicitor General made a categorical statement that no student had been arrested so far.
However, he said he cannot make any statement about the future.
While the arguments were being made, the bench said: "We have disclosed our mind (that incidents of each states will go to the respective high court)."
While refusing to appoint a committee of a retired judge of the apex court as was done in the Telengana encounter case, the bench said, "No parallel can be drawn between them.
In Telangana, one committee could have gone into the incident but in the incidents of violence by the protesting students at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University or any other place, it is not possible as the issue of jurisdiction will arise."
"We therefore decline your prayer," the bench told a battery of senior advocates appearing on behalf of the protesting students.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising protested saying "you have a way of disarming us".
"We respect all judges as much as retired judges, sitting judges and also high court judges. But we will have more confidence if retired Supreme Court judge is appointed to conduct inquiry to determine the facts," Jaising said.
The bench refused to consider the newspaper reports to entertain the petitions on the issue.
"We are not going to read newspapers. We are not going to rely on newspapers to arrive at judicial decisions," the bench said.
The bench also took umbrage when the petitioners' lawyers raised the pitch of arguments saying, "we do not appreciate shouting in the court. This is not a shouting match. This is not a street or place where you have to shout. You are shouting because media is here".
"We don't want this kind of atmosphere," it said, adding, "We have told you four times we have the confidence that our high courts will be able to look into the matters and give the correct facts".
Senior advocates Jaising and Colin Gonsalves on Monday had urged the apex court that it should take suo motu cognisance of the violence unleashed on students all over the country, especially in Aligarh Muslim University.
Jaising had told the court she has received messages from the students that they are feeling helpless as no one is there to look after them.
Gonsalves had said that he had visited the hospital and lockup on Sunday where students form Jamia Millia Islamia were kept by the police.
Students of Jamia Millia Islamia and locals protested at Jamia Nagar in Delhi on Sunday against the amended Citizenship Act.
Protesters torched four buses and two police vehicles as they clashed with police in New Friends Colony. Police baton charged the protesters and used tear gas shells to disperse the mob before entering the varsity campus, detaining several persons allegedly involved in the violence.
Later on Monday, a plea was also filed by present and ex-students of Jamia Millia Islamia, led by Vani Xaxa and others, seeking appointment of an independent judicial inquiry into the entire episode of Sunday and for fixing the responsibilities for the lapses.