NEW DELHI :
Protesters cannot block public roads for an indefinite period, the Supreme Court observed on Monday and issued notices to both the Union and the Delhi governments seeking a response on a public interest litigation on the ongoing protest at Shaheen Bagh.
The apex court also took up the matter whether a four-month-old can participate in a protest. Lawyers representing some mothers of children participating in the Shaheen Bagh protest had argued that children also have a right to protest. The court issued notices to both the Union and the Delhi governments on Monday on participation of children in protests taking suo moto notice of the death of an infant at the protest venue on 30 January.
Shaheen Bagh in south Delhi has been the epicentre of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, in the country. The agitation has drawn global attention as it is led by women. The flip side is that thousands of commuters are facing inconvenience and their daily life is getting impacted because of the traffic jams caused by the roadblocks.
The court said public roads cannot be blocked. “If you want to protest, there can be some area where you protest. You cannot block a public road. Can you block a public area? There must be defined areas of protest," the apex court said. However, it refused to pass interim orders on it.
The court’s observations and notices in two separate cases came on a day students of the Jamia Millia Islamia took out a protest march to Parliament. The protest march was stopped midway and police lathi charged protesters, injuring over two dozen students, including female students, of Jamia.
The petition related to the road blockage at Shaheen Bagh was filed by advocate and activist Amit Sahni who alleged that protests in the area have disrupted daily life.
“The respondents (Delhi Police) cannot be permitted to behave like mute spectators particularly in the situation presently faced by persons living in the vicinity of Kalindi Kunj," said Sahni’s petition.
“No one can be permitted to occupy a public road for any reason whatsoever under the pretext of a peaceful protest and that too for indefinite period to make others suffer for the same," it said.
Sahni had also filed a plea in Delhi high court highlighting the same issues. The high court had dismissed the petition without a formal order and had asked the authorities to look into it.
On the suo moto matter on the infant’s death, Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde said: “We do not want people to use this platform to further create problems...We are not considering CAA, NRC (National Register of Citizens) or youth behaviour in schools. A four-month old has died there. Had he gone for protest?" asked Justice Bobde.
The apex court bench expressed anger over the two women lawyers who said that children who participated in the protests have been dubbed as ‘Pakistani’ and ‘anti-nationals’ in their schools. It further made it clear 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," said the bench headed by the chief justice.
A 12-year-old bravery award winner Zen Gunratan Sadavarte had written to Justice Bobde seeking a probe into the death of the four-month-old infant. She has alleged in her complaint that the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of the baby was violated. She also claimed that “ignoring the fact that new born babies need a lot of attention and care as they cannot express their pain in particulars thereafter also ignoring the conditions unfavourable to the children, they are brought to the protest place which is violative of their child rights and natural justice." Sadavarte has sought action against not just the organizer of the Shaheen Bagh protest but also the parents of the infant.