TERMING THE turn of events in Delhi, which has seen violence since Sunday, as “unfortunate”, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday that “it is time all stakeholders… started lowering the temperature and their blood pressure”.
“This is not how the society should behave. Differences of opinion can happen even within a family… This is a matter of debate. But unfortunately, debate has degenerated into something else,” said Justice S K Kaul.
The bench, which included Justice K M Joseph, was hearing two PILs seeking removal of protesters at Shaheen Bagh.
Saying that “the environment is not conducive”, the court declined to pass any direction and deferred the hearing till March 23. However, the bench made it clear that it had not restrained the police from taking action under the law. “Let the system work. Police has the authority. We have not restrained anyone,” said Justice Kaul.
It also refused to entertain applications by Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and others, seeking intervention in the situation in Delhi, saying it did not want to expand the scope of the matter before it and the Delhi High Court, where a petition is pending, was the right forum to take appropriate action.
The bench said the limited question before it was whether the protesters can sit on a public road, adding, “there are many unfortunate incidents which have occurred after that and that is not the subject matter before us”.
Appearing for the Delhi Police, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said “this should not be construed as licence to continue what they are doing”.
The court said it had perused a report submitted by the interlocutors deputed by it to negotiate with the Shaheen Bagh protesters, but there were “too many ifs and buts”.
The hearing witnessed sharp exchanges between Justice Joseph and Mehta.
Justice Joseph said he wanted to say something on the situation, but the SG urged him not to say anything that would have an impact on the matter.
“I will, because my loyalty is to the Constitution and the nation,” said Justice Joseph.
“The government’s loyalty is also to the Constitution and nation,” said Mehta.
“Problem is the lack of professionalisation of police and lack of independence for police to act across the board,” said Justice Joseph. “Unless you get the police to act… Look at the way the police in the UK or USA function,” he said, adding that they (UK, US police) don’t have to wait for orders to act.
The SG replied that “if the police here start working like the police in the US or UK, this court would be the first institution to come in between”.
Justice Joseph said the directions given by the SC in the Prakash Singh case to make the police more independent had not been implemented yet. “Prakash Singh needs to be followed… Please don’t misunderstand me,” he said.
“It’s not me who misunderstands,” replied Mehta.
Intervening, Justice Kaul said what was being conveyed was that “all over the country, different state governments have been reluctant to implement Prakash Singh” and this may be an occasion to revisit and implement.
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