Updated: February 11, 2020 5:30:22 am
HEARING PETITIONS against the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh, the Supreme Court said on Monday that protests must be held in “identified areas” and protesters cannot block public roads and cause inconvenience to others.
“You cannot block 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,” said a bench comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph. “You cannot create inconvenience for the people,” it said.
“There’s a law enacted, and challenge to it is pending in the Court. It’s fine that some people may want to protest. The protests have gone on for many days… There must be an area where you can protest. It cannot be held wherever one wants. It has to be in identified area… Otherwise people will go and protest anywhere,” said Justice Kaul, adding that protests cannot be held at the cost of the citizens’ interests.
The court was hearing petitions filed by Advocate Amit Sahni and Delhi BJP leader Nand Kishore Garg on the traffic disruption due to the protests.
“There cannot be an indefinite protest in such an area… There must be an area where you can protest,” said Justice Kaul.
As Advocate Mehmood Pracha, appearing for Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad, sought to intervene, Justice Joseph asked, “Can you block a public road?”
“You can’t do that even in a park,” said Justice Kaul.
The bench, however, said it would like to hear the state before passing any order. Issuing notices to the Centre, Delhi government and Delhi Police, it posted the matter for further hearing on February 17.
Advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, appearing for Garg, urged the court to pass an interim direction, saying people have been facing difficulties for several days now. The bench, however, declined the request. “If you have waited for over 50 days, you can wait for some more days,” it said.
In his appeal. Sahni sought to know “whether the protesters have unrestricted rights under Article 19 of the Constitution of India to protest on a busy road in violation of other person’s right to have a thoroughfare and whether such protests can be permitted to continue especially when a particular road is blocked for over a month”.
He said that while “there is no quarrel with the proposition that everyone has a right to protest, the same is subject to reasonable restrictions, which can be imposed looking into the larger public interest”.
“The public at large is facing huge inconvenience/ hardship as the said road is blocked since 15-12-2019 and the residents, shopkeepers, children and patients are facing extreme difficulties,” he said.
Sahni had earlier approached the Delhi High Court, seeking directions to the Delhi Police to ensure smooth traffic flow on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch. The HC had asked the police to look into the matter.
Garg, in his petition, said the law enforcement machinery was being “held hostage to the whims and fancies of the protesters”, and sought the court’s intervention to formulate guidelines for protests in public places.
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