New Delhi: The Supreme Court has referred the Uttar Pradesh government’s appeal of the Allahabad high court judgment on hoardings of anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protesters to a larger bench. The court has not stayed the high court order – which means it still stands at the moment.
Last week, the government put up hoardings in Lucknow with names, photographs and addresses of people involved in the anti-CAA protests. In the hoardings, the UP government says it holds these people responsible for violence during the protests.
Earlier this week, the Allahabad high court had ordered the state government to remove the hoardings, saying they were an “unwarranted interference in privacy of people”. A vacation bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices U.U. Lalit and Aniruddha Bose, began hearing the UP government’s appeal of the high court decision on Thursday.
While referring the matter to a larger bench, the judges said the case pertained to “issues which need further consideration by a bench of sufficient strength”.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state government, said in court that the hoardings were put up after the authorities found 57 people guilty of rioting. According to the Puttuswamy judgment, LiveLaw quoted him as saying, there was an implied waiver of right to privacy once a person is in the public domain.
The bench suggested that there is no law to defend the hoardings.
“The wrong-doer must be brought to book. But can the state go beyond that?” Justice Lalit observed, according to NDTV. He questioned whether the government has the power to put up hoardings of this kind.
Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, appearing for retired IPS officer S.R. Darapuri who figures in the hoardings, said it was like an “appeal for lynching”.
“We don’t have an anarchy in the state that the government will start doing this!” Singhvi said. “Someones intention might be to shame, another’s may be to lynch. How do we differentiate and how do we control?”
Other lawyers appearing for people who were named in the hoardings too made similar arguments, saying that the state was opening the door to further violence.
The hoardings had reportedly been put up on chief minister Adityanath’s instructions. After violence broke out last December in Lucknow and other parts of the state, Adityanath had declared that his government would take “revenge” and attach the property of anyone involved in it. The police had video graphed people who had attended the protests in addition to identifying some protesters through closed-circuit cameras. Hundreds of people were arrested and accused of fomenting violence.
The UP government’s handling of the anti-CAA protests has been widely criticised. The government has slapped notices worth thousands of crores on those it blames for the violence. Retired Supreme Court judge Justice Markandey Katju, for instance, wrote in The Wire about the illegality of penalising protesters.