‘Let Things Cool Down’: SC Defers Shaheen Bagh Case Till 23 March

SC says it will not expand scope of petitions by looking into pleas on violence.

3 min read

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it cannot say repeatedly that protesters at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi has the right to protest but they cannot block roads. The apex court has deferred the hearing till 23 March.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph said that though the interlocutors – advocates Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran – had tried their best, it was unclear if their mediation efforts would prove successful, as their report included too many “ifs and buts”.

“We have already said in earlier hearings and cannot repeatedly say that the protesters do have the right to protest but they cannot block the roads,” the bench said. Despite this, the judges declined to pass any interim orders for removal of the protesters.

The top court remarks came after advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, appearing for BJP leader Nand Kishore Garg, sought some interim order for removal of protesters from the road at Shaheen Bagh, saying people are using their right to protest as a weapon and causing inconvenience to others, reported PTI.

It added, "We have thought of something which was an out of box solution to the problem. However, we don't know how far we have succeeded but we must say that the interlocutors have made every endeavour to do whatever necessary to find the solution. We appreciate their efforts."

The bench said that it had gone through the report of the two interlocutors senior advocate Sanjay Hegde and advocate Sadhana Ramachandran, which had been submitted on Monday, 24 February.

It told the interlocutors that people at Shaheen Bagh have to come forward for the solution.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said that interlocutors were asked by the court to persuade the protesters to vacate the road, not to find alternatives to the blocked roads.

To this, the bench said, the court order was very clear in this regard.

"Their job was to instill confidence among the protesters that they have the right to protest but not at this place. We think they did their job well and we appreciate that," the bench said.

It asked all the parties to maintain composure, saying that "this is not how the developing society works and behaves. There can be difference of opinion. People may have their contra view which can be debated. There has to be a manner of debate." The top court agreed with the views of Mehta that "manifestation of dissent should be civilized".

The solicitor general said that the observation of the court should not be put in the order as it may have a demoralising effect on the law enforcing agencies.

"We agree with that. The problem is that media people in the court starts tweeting about any word spoken in the court. By the time, order is dictated, it is spread all over. Many a times, what has been expressed in court is not part of the order. What we say in court is part of discussion, which we have. We must say that the views of the court is in its order," the bench said.

Mehta said that he was not referring to the media but the parties on other side, who may refer to the apex court's order in other judicial platforms.

The top court was hearing two pleas -- one by lawyer and petitioner Amit Sahni and another by BJP leader Nand Kishore Garg -- seeking removal of protesters from Shaheen Bagh, the epicentre of agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act for over two months.

‘Lack of Professionalism’: SC Pulls up Delhi Police

SC Judge KM Joseph said there was lack of professionalism on part of police in dealing with protests and violence across Delhi and other parts of the country. “There is a lack of professionalism and independence in the police,” he said, after saying that he needed to make note of this given his responsibilities as a constitutional authority.

Justice Kaul explained that the court has nothing against Delhi Police but was making remarks keeping in mind the broader issues with performance and independence of the police. The apex court had delivered a verdict in the Prakash Singh case in 2006, which had suggested several police reforms – Justice Kaul clarified that the failure to implement these reforms was preventing the police from doing their jobs properly.

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