The Supreme Court says people cannot block public road indefinitely and create inconvenience for others but declined to pass an interim direction on pleas for removal of anti-CAA protesters from Shaheen Bagh, the epicentre of demonstrations here for nearly two months. As it observed that people are entitled to protest, but it has to be done in an area identified for agitations and cannot be done on a public road or park, the court also took up the issue of an infant dying on returning home from Shaheen Bagh where his parents had taken him along.
Making a significant observation on the blockade at Shaheen Bagh by anti-CAA protesters in Delhi, the Supreme Court on Monday said that “you can’t block public roads indefinitely” and that the “protests can’t continue like this in public places”.
Hearing a plea for directions to the authorities to remove the Shaheen Bagh blockade, a bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph issued notices to Delhi Police and others and scheduled the next hearing on the matter for February 17.
During the hearing on the matter, Justice Kaul said that the protest at Shaheen Bagh had continued for many days now. “You cannot just block the road. There cannot be an indefinite protest in public areas. Then, everybody will protest everywhere,” Justice Kaul said.
The court, however, declined to issue any direction without hearing the other party, including Delhi Police.
“Is there anybody present from the government’s side? We will issue the notice,” said the bench. The Centre’s counsel was not present during the brief hearing.
The court observed that protests cannot be carried out at the cost of citizens’ interests.
“There is a law and the people have a grievance against this law; but the matter is pending in the court. Despite this, some people are protesting; they are entitled to protest,” said the bench.
The court observation came after counsel Mehmood Pracha for Bhim Army chief Chandershekhar Azad contended that the matter is about balancing rights.
Justice Joseph agreed to the observation and asked: “Can you block a public road?”
Justice Kaul observed that protests cannot be held in parks too, and there should be designated areas for holding protests.
Advocate Amit Sahni had moved the apex court to seek directions to the authorities to remove the blockade at Shaheen Bagh, through which the main road connecting Kalindi Kunj and Noida passes.
As the hearing was drawing to an end, counsel for another petitioner urged the court to issue any direction in the interest of people facing problems due to the road blockade. The court said: “You have waited for over 50 days; you can wait for a few more days.”
The Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance on the death of a four-month-old and questioned how could an infant go to protest at Shaheen Bagh, and also how could mothers support this.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant issued notice to the Centre and the Delhi government on suo motu plea to “stop the involvement of children and infants in demonstrations”.
A counsel appearing for the women in the protests claimed as per United Nations convention, children can participate in the protest. To this, the Chief Justice replied: “Can a 4-month-old child be taking part in such (Shaheen Bagh) protests?”,
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was also present in the court, objected to the line of argument of the women’s lawyers.
A group of women from Shaheen Bagh through the lawyer contended before the top court that even climate change activist Greta Thunberg was a child when she became a protester and raised concerns on children from the area being called Pakistanis, traitors etc., in schools.
The Chief Justice, terming these arguments irrelevant, said: “Do not make such explosive submissions…we do not want people to use this platform to create more problems.”
Two women advocates claimed they represent the women involved in the protest.
The Chief Justice reiterated the query how could a four-month-old go to the protest site, and how could mothers justify this. The 4-month-old baby had passed away in his sleep on the night of January 30 after his parents returned from Shaheen Bagh.
As the counsel continued to argue on the plight of women and children in detention centres, the Chief Justice again told the counsels not to make irrelevant arguments on someone calling a child Pakistani in school, NRC, CAA or detention camps. “In this proceeding, we are considering the death of a four-month-old child,” he said.
“We respect motherhood, social peace. Don’t make arguments to generate guilt…”, he added.
The apex court had taken cognizance of a letter by a 12-yr-old national bravery award winner, who wrote to the Chief Justice following the death of a 4-month-old infant allegedly due to exposure to cold as he was taken to the venue of the anti-CAA protest at Shaheen Bagh. (IANS)