Hearing a pleas over the protests at Shaheen Bagh, the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday said that the protestors should reach a “reasonable solution” and that though people have a fundamental right to protest against a law, the blocking of public roads is a matter of concern and there must be a balancing factor with regards to the same.
A bench comprising Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph set up a mediation team headed by Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde and Sadhna Ramachandran to hold talks with the protestors at Shaheen Bagh where the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) have been going on for over 60 days now and ask them to shift their protest to an alternative site like the Ramlila Maidan and the Jantar Mantar.
The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by advocate Amit Sahni representing Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad who had filed an Intervention Application (IA) in the SC stating that the authorities had intentionally put up blockades on various streets to cause inconvenience to commuters and had claimed that “the allegation of road blockade by protestors is just an excuse.”
During the hearing Justice Kaul observed, “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, may be due to genuine concerns, where does it stop…”
The Court also said, “It is very important that people are allowed to express their grievance. Judicial review is there but people have the right to protest against the legislation. Opinion formation takes place when there is a protest. Every right has to be coupled with responsibility. You have a right to protest but there is a larger issue of competing interests.”
The counsel for the intervenors submitted that essential services like school buses, ambulances, etc. were given passage all this time, the Solicitor General said that “there was a complete blockade.” He also said that the protests were keeping “women and children in front”, adding, “We have tried to hold several meetings. You cannot hold an entire city hostage under the garb of protests.”
On February 10, the two-judge bench had issued notices to the Centre, Delhi government and the Delhi Police with regards to the protest. The protest at Shaheen Bagh that began on December 15, is a one-of-a-kind post-independence women-led protest to protect the identities of the minorities and the marginalized is still going strong.
The next hearing in the matter has been scheduled for February 24.
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