The Supreme Court Monday said the anti-CAA protestors, who are holding agitation at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi since December 15 last year, cannot block the public roads and create inconvenience for others. Also Read - Anti-CAA Protest: Jamia Students' March to Parliament Stopped Near Holy Family Hospital in Okhla
People are entitled to protest but it has to be done in an area identified for agitations and it cannot be done on a public road or park, the apex court said. Also Read - Shaheen Bagh Child Death: Supreme Court Issues Notice to Centre, Delhi Government
A bench comprising Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph issued notices to the Centre, Delhi government and Delhi Police asking them to respond to the pleas seeking removal of protestors from Shaheen Bagh and ensuring smooth traffic flow on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch. Also Read - Half of Bangladesh Will be Empty if India Offers Citizenship to Bangladeshis: Union Minister on CAA
When the counsel appearing for the petitioners urged the court to pass some direction since there was inconvenience to the public, the bench said, “It cannot be done ex-parte. We will hear the other side.”
The top court has posted the matter for further hearing on February 17.
“You cannot block the public roads. There cannot be indefinite period of protest in such an area. If you want to protest, it has to be in an area identified for protest,” the bench said.
“There is a law and people have grievance against it. The matter is pending in the court. Despite that some people are protesting. They are entitled to protest,” the court said, adding, “It should be done in an area which is designated for protests. You cannot create inconvenience for the people.”
The apex court said that protest at Shaheen Bagh has been going on for long but it cannot create inconvenience for others.
“Can you block a public road? You cannot block it. Suppose there is a public park, you cannot hold protest there,” the bench said.
At the outset, advocate Amit Sahni, one of the petitioners, said that the question in this matter is about the extent of right to protest.
“Is there anybody present from the government’s side? We will issue notice,” the bench said.
When advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, appearing for another petitioner and former BJP MLA Nand Kishore Garg, urged the bench to pass some direction, the apex court said, “If you have waited for over 50 days, wait for some more days.”
Advocate Mehmood Pracha told the court that he wants to intervene in the matter on behalf of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad.
“Do whatever you feel proper,” the bench told Pracha.
On February 7, the top court had said it would hear the pleas against the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh on Monday as it did not want to “influence” the February 8 Delhi assembly elections.
The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by Sahni, who had approached the high court seeking directions to the Delhi Police to ensure smooth traffic flow on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch, which was blocked by anti-CAA protesters on December 15.
While dealing with Sahni’s plea, the high court had asked local authorities to deal with the situation keeping in mind law and order.
Separately, Garg has filed a petition in the apex court seeking directions to the authorities to remove the protestors from Shaheen Bagh.
Restrictions have been imposed on the Kaindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch and the Okhla underpass, which were closed on December 15 last year due to the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
One of the pleas has sought laying down of comprehensive and exhaustive guidelines relating to outright restrictions for holding protests or agitations leading to obstruction of public place.
In his plea, Garg has said that law enforcement machinery was being “held hostage to the whims and fancies of the protesters” who have blocked vehicular and pedestrian movement from the road connecting Delhi to Noida.
The state has the duty to protect the fundamental rights of the citizen who were continuously being harassed by the blockage of the arterial road, the plea has said.
“It is disappointing that the state machinery is muted and a silent spectator to hooliganism and vandalism of the protesters who are threatening the existential efficacy of the democracy and the rule of law and had already taken the law and order situation in their own hand,” the plea said.
In his appeal, Sahni has sought supervision of the situation in Shaheen Bagh, where several women are sitting on protest, by a retired Supreme Court judge or a sitting judge of the Delhi High Court.
Sahni has said in his plea that protests in Shaheen Bagh have inspired similar demonstrations in other cities and to allow it to continue would set a wrong precedent.