New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday deferred hearing on petitions to have the Shaheen Bagh site cleared of protesters to March 23.
The apex court said that it has asserted repeatedly that people have the right to protest without blocking roads and held that it was “time for all parties to lower temperatures.” It also criticised Delhi Police’s professionalism in handling the violence.
“We have seen the report of the interlocutors. We don’t want to discuss it here. We want to defer it. The environment is not conducive…let the police and the system work,” NDTV quoted a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph as having said.
A couple hundred people have been injured in the communal riots that have broken out in Delhi. As many as 22 people have died. At the heart of the violence, mainly in Delhi’s north east, BJP leader Kapil Mishra’s open call to remove Jafrabad’s anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests. The protesters at Shaheen Bagh have been sitting in a dharna over the same issue.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
It told the interlocutors that people at Shaheen Bagh have to come forward for the solution.
“Appointing of the interlocutors was an out-of-box solution. But let’s see, how far we have succeeded,” it added.
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 instil 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 civilised”.
Firstpost has reported that the court was also disparaging to Delhi Police who it accused of lack of professionalism.
“The problem is lack of professionalism of police. If this had been done before, this situation would not have risen,” Joseph said. Police doesn’t have to wait for orders if someone makes inflammatory statements but act in accordance with law, the court said.
The solicitor general said in response to this, 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 court also made some harsh comments about the Delhi Police even as the Solicitor General of India, urged the court not to do so.
Advocate Mehmood Pracha, appearing for some of the parties said that it is an open court and media can report the observation made during the proceedings.
(With PTI inputs)