The Supreme Court Wednesday deferred the hearing on the Shaheen Bagh protests until March 23, saying there is a “need for magnanimity and for the situation to cool down” before the issue is taken up. It also refused to take up a plea connected to the clashes in northeast Delhi, saying it did not want to expand the scope of the current matter.
Calling the clashes in northeast Delhi “unfortunate,” the court said it is for the law enforcement administration to ensure the environment is conducive. Coming down heavily on the police, Judge K M Joseph said there was a lack of professionalism on part of the police. “These things would not have happened had police not allowed instigators to get away,” the bench of Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph observed as quoted by PTI. Yesterday, the court had agreed to hear the application along with the petitions related to the Shaheen Bagh protests.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta objected to the court’s remarks and said they can demoralise the police force. The court asked Mehta not to misunderstand bench’s views as it is making remarks keeping in mind long-term implications. It also said that the Delhi High Court is hearing a matter pertaining to the violence and that the petitioners are free to pursue legal remedies.
On Shaheen Bagh protest, the court said it has read the report submitted by the two interlocutors — advocate Sadhna Ramachandran and senior advocate Sanjay Hegde — but said that there are “too many ifs and buts” in the report.
The report submitted by the interlocutors, it is learned, is based on the daily updates of their interaction put up for the media by the two interlocutors and a broad compilation of the demands of the protesters. The issues raised by the report will have to be considered by the bench while arriving at a decision. Ramachandran had expressed her thanks to the bench for providing the opportunity, stating that it was a “learning experience”.
The report was submitted two days ago in a sealed envelope before a bench of Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph on Monday
The report has neither been taken on record by the bench nor made available to any of the lawyers. When a petitioner sought a copy of the report, the bench said that they were keeping it confidential for the time being, as “the purpose of an interlocutor is different. their report is only for our record”.
Last week, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said any attempt to “forcibly shift” those protesting against the CAA from the road they are sitting on in Shaheen Bagh, Delhi, “would compromise their safety”. He added that police barricading of unconnected roads was behind the traffic chaos in the area.
Acknowledging that people have a fundamental right to protest, the Supreme Court had last week appointed two advocates as interlocutors with the mandate to persuade anti-CAA protesters at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi to end their blockade of a public road.
The top court is hearing PILs against the protest over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the blockade of roads, saying this was causing difficulties for people in nearby areas. In Shaheen Bagh, women have been spearheading a protest against the citizenship law since December 15, 2019. The protest has also inspired similar demonstrations in Kolkata, Lucknow, Chennai, among other places
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