Allahabad High Court pulls up Uttar Pradesh govt. on controversial hoardings

The court took suo motu notice of the Lucknow administration’s controversial decision to ‘name and shame’ persons accused in the violence during the protests against the CAA by putting up their photos in hoardings all over the city

March 08, 2020 01:12 pm | Updated 11:54 pm IST - Lucknow

A banner naming anti-CAA protesters erected near Hazratganj intersection in Lucknow on Friday.

A banner naming anti-CAA protesters erected near Hazratganj intersection in Lucknow on Friday.

In a rare Sunday sitting, the Allahabad High Court pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government for the controversial hoardings put up by the Lucknow administration in the city of persons accused and out on bail, but not convicted, in the violence during protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Ramesh Sinha took up the matter suo motu and sought answers from the Advocate-General (A-G) of Uttar Pradesh.

After the hour-long hearing, the court reserved the order for Monday. The court moved the hearing, scheduled for 10 a.m., to 3 p.m. on the request of the government that the A-G required more time to fly down to Prayagraj.

While accepting the State’s request, the court orally observed that the hoardings were an encroachment on personal liberty and asked if the government would take corrective measures before the hearing, said lawyers present in court. A senior lawyer said the court asked the State under which authority did it put up the hoardings.

Advocate K.K. Roy, who was present in the court, said: “The court’s observation was very important, that by putting up banners with photographs in this manner, you [the State] are encroaching upon the privacy, dignity and freedom of a person, and this appears to be an illegal act.”

Additional Advocate-General Niraj Tripathi said the court reserved the order after hearing the government’s side through the A-G.

“The court didn’t make any observations. Proper reply was given to all queries made by the court,” Mr. Tripathi said, when asked by journalists about the court’s oral observations.

Triggers fears

In a controversial move, the police and the administration put up several hoardings in Lucknow identifying those accused of violence during the protests against the CAA in December last, triggering fears among those named.

The names, photographs and residential addresses of the accused are listed in the hoardings.

They have been asked to pay for the damage to public and private property within a stipulated time or have their properties seized by the district administration. The total damage listed in the hoardings amounts to ₹1.55 crore.

As many as 57 persons have been identified in separate hoardings that have come up pertaining to the jurisdiction of the Hazratganj, Thakurganj, Hasanganj and Qaiserbagh police station areas.

One of them, with 28 names, put up at the prominent Hazratganj intersection, next to the statue of B.R. Ambedkar, asks them to pay up over ₹64 lakh.

Those served notices in this hoarding include retired IPS officer S.R Darapuri, lawyer and activist Mohammad Shoaib, Congress member Sadaf Jafar, teacher Robin Verma, cultural activist Deepak Kabir and Dalit activist Pawan Rao Ambedkar. They had secured bail in the charges against them and also received notices for damage charges personally.

Exposed to public

Many of those featuring on the hoardings expressed anxiety over their safety as their personal information was now exposed to public and possibly to unruly elements. They termed it illegal and unethical.

While the Lucknow administration’s decision was widely debated on social media, and the Samajwadi Party condemning it, the Adityanath government has defended it.

Cabinet Minister and government spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh, in a tweet on Friday, said: “#UP Name and Shame of rioters will put a deterrent under Yogi rule which is as per the law of the land.”

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