The Delhi High Court Thursday expressed concern over residential areas turning into protest sites, while hearing a petition to restrict protests at Flagstaff Road, where Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal lives.
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva, hearing a petition by Civil Lines Residents’ Association, observed that though the protest may be peaceful, when a precedent is set, people would come and squat there as they do in designated protest spots like Ramlila ground or Jantar Mantar.
Police told the court that not more than 25-30 persons were sitting on dharna, within their barricades at Flagstaff Road. “We cannot have that kind of a situation in a residential colony,” said the court, as it observed that the protest outside Kejriwal’s house had been going on for 11 days.
The court said while the right to protest is guaranteed under the Constitution, people cannot squat in a residential area. “Public functionaries deal with all kinds of people. Today it is one group of people who are protesting… tomorrow, it will be another group of people. Today the protest is peaceful. But once a precedent is set, tomorrow there will be another group of people protesting there…,” it said.
In the status report filed by DCP (North) Anto Alphonse, the court was informed that some mayors and councillors of the MCDs started the protest at Flagstaff Road on December 7, and that they have occupied the footpath on the side of the road and a small portion of the road outside the CM’s residence.
In a different court, meanwhile, Additional Standing Counsel Gautam Narayan, representing Delhi Police, submitted that dharnas and protests, on the basis of a Supreme Court order, are permitted only at Ramlila Maidan and Jantar Mantar. Delhi Police were opposing the plea before the bench of Justice Navin Chawla by AAP MLAs Raghav Chadha and Atishi for permission to protest, which the Delhi police had earlier denied.
“… in any residential area, we will not permit any dharna or demonstration or protest and it can be held only at these two designated areas,” Narayan said.
Chadha and Atishi are seeking permission to hold a peaceful demonstration, while offering an assurance to follow Covid-19 guidelines. On Thursday, they told the court they are ready to make a statement that protesters will be limited to four-member groups and only for a few hours.
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