Shaheen Bagh closure: There cannot be indefinite protest in common area, says SC

Court refuses to pass any interim directions urgently in the PIL filed for the removal of those protesting against CAA, NRC

February 10, 2020 01:47 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 11:32 am IST - NEW DELHI

A file photo of demonstrators attending a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi.

A file photo of demonstrators attending a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi.

The Supreme Court on Monday gently drew the attention of citizens, mothers and senior citizens agitating against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to the inconvenience caused when protests were held on public thoroughfares for days.

A Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph said protests could not be carried on indefinitely in a common area. On Friday, the Bench indicated that the court would not be party to any sort of  pre-election narrative  to garner votes a day before the Assembly polls.

The Supreme Court, however, refused to pass any interim directions urgently in the Public Interest Litigation filed by advocate Amit Sahni seeking the removal of Shaheen Bagh protesters.

“The protests have been going on for over 50 days, you can wait. We like to hear the other side (Police),” Justice Kaul said.

The court issued a formal notice to the Delhi Police and listed the case for further hearing on February 17.

The court nudged the protesters about the bother created for ordinary commuters when protests were held on public roads indefinitely.

“There cannot be an indefinite protest in a common area. You have to find an area for protests. If protests are held everywhere, what will happen?” Justice Kaul asked advocate Mehmood Pracha, appearing for Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad .

When Mr. Pracha submitted that there should be a “balancing of rights”, Justice Kaul said “this is not about any balancing of rights”. Justice Joseph asked, “Can you block a public road?”

The petition filed by Mr. Sahni sought directions to the police to take action to ensure smooth traffic movement on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch, which has been closed for over a month due to anti-CAA protests, making the public at large suffer.

The plea sought supervision of the situation in Shaheen Bagh, where several women are sitting on an indefinite protest, by a retired Supreme Court judge or a sitting judge of the Delhi High Court to avoid any further deterioration in the situation and to circumvent any violence.

“The respondents (Delhi Police) cannot be permitted to behave like mute spectators particularly in a situation presently faced by persons living in the vicinity of Kalindi Kunj,” said the plea.

Mr. Sahni contended that the Delhi High Court did not order the forthwith removal of traffic restrictions and observed that no direction could be issued on the methodology to handle protest and traffic movement successfully, and left it to the discretion of the police.

“No one can be permitted to occupy a public road for any reason whatsoever under the pretext of peaceful protest and that too for (an) indefinite period to make others suffer...” his plea said.

The High Court had asked the police to examine the issue while bearing in mind that law and order was supposed to be maintained.

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