The Supreme Court Wednesday deferred the hearing of the Shaheen Bagh matter to 23 March as it took note of the sensitive situation in Delhi over the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act. “Let this fandom cool down. The timing is not conducive to hear this matter. It is for law enforcing administration to ensure environment is conducive,” a Bench comprising Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph.
The court also made some harsh comments about the Delhi Police even as the Solicitor General of India, urged the court not to do so.
Justice Joseph said that there was lack of professionalism on part of the police. “The problem is lack of professionalism of police. If this had been done before, this situation would not have risen,” Joseph said. Police doesn’t have to wait for orders if someone makes inflammatory statements but act in accordance with law, the court said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta objected to this saying that any adverse comments may demoralise the police force. He said, “We are not aware of the ground realities in which the police officials function.” He said that the DCP is on the ventilator after he was virtually lynched by the protesters.
The Supreme Court said that its remarks are made not in adversarial context but to ensure that the law and order is maintained. The bench said it has nothing against Delhi Police but the remarks are being made keeping in mind the larger perspective.
Justice Joseph also gave the example of police in US and UK and said the force has to act professionally as per law if something goes wrong. He added that the remarks are made not in adversarial context but to ensure that law and order is maintained.
But apart from these observations, the court refused to intervene in the matter as the Delhi High Court is already hearing related petitions. It also dismissed pleas demanding court monitored-SIT probe in the violence and refused to expand the scope of Shaheen Bagh case to hear the larger matter of violence over CAA.
“This is a very limited matter before us. We are not inclined to expand the scope of this petition,” the court said.
It also refused to discuss the report of the interlocutors which they submitted after trying to negotiate with the Shaheen Bagh protesters.
The interlocutors had filed their report in a sealed cover in the apex court on Monday following their talks with protestors at Shaheen Bagh, the epicentre of agitation against the CAA for over two months.
The court had on 17 February asked senior advocate Sanjay Hegde to “play a constructive role as an interlocutor” and talk to the protestors to move to an alternative site where no public place would be blocked.
It had said that Hegde along with advocate Sadhana Ramachandran or any other person of his choice may talk to the protestors.
The bench made it clear that the report will not be shared with the petitioners or the lawyers representing the Centre and Delhi Police at this stage.
When the counsel representing one of the petitioners requested the court that report be shared with them, the bench said: “We are here. Everyone is here. Let us have the benefit of the report first. The copy of the report is for the court only.”
The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by advocate Amit Sahni, who had approached the court seeking directions to Delhi Police to ensure smooth traffic flow on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch, which was blocked by anti-CAA protesters on 15 December last year.
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, former BJP MLA Nand Kishore Garg has filed a plea in the apex court seeking directions to authorities to remove protestors from Shaheen Bagh.
Restrictions have been imposed on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch and the Okhla underpass, which were closed on 15 December last year due to protests against CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Advocate Wajahat Habibullah has recently filed an affidavit in the court and said that the protest at Shaheen Bagh was peaceful and inconvenience being caused to commuters was due to barricades “unnecessarily” put by police on roads far away from the site.
The same stand has been taken by Naqvi and Azad in their joint affidavit filed in the court in the matter.
The apex court had earlier said that though people have a fundamental right to protest “peacefully and lawfully”, it was troubled by the blocking of a public road at Shaheen Bagh as it might lead to a “chaotic situation”.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Delhi government and Delhi Police, had told the court that the solution is to remove these protestors from the site.
Naqvi and Azad, in their joint affidavit, have alleged that “the present ruling dispensation, at the behest of its political masters, had devised a strategy of extinguishing these protests by falsely attributing violence and acts of vandalism to peaceful protestors”.
Habibullah, in his affidavit, has also stated that the protestors have asked him to convey to the apex court that their dissent “was out of desperation and compulsion” as they see the CAA, National Population Register (NPR) and NRC as a “death knell” for their and future generations’ survival and existence.
With inputs from agencies
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