New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said that a mediation team should talk to protestors at Shaheen Bagh about opening up the road that has been blocked. The team will be headed by senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, who happened to be present in the court to observe when the case was being heard.
A bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph was hearing petitions filed by lawyer Amit Sahni and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nand Kishore Garg, who want the road to be opened and the protest to be removed. The sit-in protest led by Muslim women has been ongoing in Shaheen Bagh for more than two months now. The protestors want the Citizenship (Amendment) Act to be revoked and the National Register of Citizens and National Population Register exercises cancelled.
While people have the right to protest, the bench said, the road blockade cannot go on indefinitely and the location of the protest could be changed. There needs to be a “balance” in how the right to protest is exercised, Justice Kaul said, according to LiveLaw.
“Democracy works on expression of views. But there are lines and boundaries. If you wish to protest, while the matter is being heard here, that’s also ok. But our concern is limited. Today there could be one legislation. Tomorrow another section of society could have a problem with something else. Blocking traffic and causing inconvenience is our concern. My concern is if everybody starts blocking roads, maybe due to genuine concerns, where does it stop,” Justice Kaul said.
The bench said Hegde could choose two others to join the mediation team. He suggested advocate Sadhna Ramachandran and former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who has filed an intervening application in the matter.
The Solicitor General told the court that “there was a complete blockade” and “the entire city was being held hostage”. When the lawyer for an intervenor said school buses, ambulances, etc. are being allowed to pass, he disagreed.
“What we want you to look into are alternatives for where they can go instead of blocking roads to protest,” Justice said to the SG.
The SG, however, said it should not look like the court is agreeing to the protestors demands. “I don’t want the message to be that we’ve been brought to our knees,” he said. “It is upon them to discuss and then inform. We will give suggestions, but this cannot be their contention that since we have not been able to find alternatives, they will continue there.”
The case will next be heard on February 24. The bench had earlier orally noted that protests cannot go on indefinitely, and that they should limited to areas “designated for protests”.