Taking suo-motu cognizance of the death of a four-month-old infant who was taken to the anti-CAA protest in New Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, the Supreme Court Monday issued notices to the Central and Delhi Governments seeking their responses on whether children should be allowed to participate in protests.
A counsel appearing on behalf of some mothers from Shaheen Bagh said as per United Nations’ convention ratified by India, children have a right to protest. To this, Chief Justice S A Bobde said: “Four-month-old went for protest?…How can mothers support this!”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also said it was not right that minors like the infant should be taken to the protest site.
The four-month-old infant whose parents have been protesting at Shaheen Bagh died, allegedly due to exposure to the cold, on the night of January 29. The child’s mother, Nazia (24), said she would continue protesting.
After the child’s death, National Bravery Award winner Zen Gunratan Sadavarte had written to the CJI’s office urging the court to intervene to protect the rights of children and said making them attend protest demonstrations “amounts to cruelty”. She had contended that the protesters at Shaheen Bagh include newborns and children, who are exposed to unfavourable conditions, thereby violating their rights.
The court expressed its displeasure over some statements made by lawyers appearing for the mother of the deceased child and journalist John Dayal, who said that children who participated in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Shaheen Bagh have been dubbed as ‘Pakistani’ and ‘anti-nationals’ in their schools.
“We do not want people to use this platform to further create problems…We are not considering either CAA or NRC. We are not considering the abuses like Pakistani hurled in schools, the bench said, adding that it was not stifling anybody’s voice. “We are not stifling any voice. This is a properly constituted suo motu proceedings by the Supreme Court of India,” the bench said.
The court also expressed concern over the continued blockade of Shaheen Bagh-Kalinidi Kunj stretch by anti-CAA protesters, saying the people are entitled to protest but should do so in an area designated for agitation and not cause inconvenience to others.
The Delhi High Court, on January 14, had refused to pass any order and directed the police to keep in mind the larger public interest as well as maintenance of law and order.
Hundreds of people, mostly women, are holding a 24/7 protest at Shaheen Bagh against the Citizenship Amendment Act and a proposed nation-wide implementation of the National Register of Citizens. The protest has been underway since December 15 last year.
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