Shaheen Bagh interlocutors file report in Supreme Court

Kusum Tewari

Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors senior advocate Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran on Monday handed over a report of their four-day endeavour to coax Shaheen Bagh protesters to shift their agitation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) to an alternative site, conveniently out of the way of traffic and public movement.

A Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph took the yellow-enveloped reports proferred by the interlocutors in the courtroom. “We will go through the report. We will list the case for hearing day after tomorrow,” Justice Kaul said.

The court refused to give a copy of the report to petitioner-advocate Amit Sahni. “We are not even putting it [report] on record… Let’s go through it first,” Justice Kaul said.

Also read | Protesters not to vacate site till CAA is revoked

On February 17, the Supreme Court upheld the fundamental right of mothers, children and ordinary people of Shaheen Bagh and Delhi to protest against the CAA but expressed its concern over their blocking public areas such as roads to voice their discontent.

“Democracy works on different views. We have no quibble on that. You want to protest, no problem. You don’t want to wait for our judgment on the validity of the CAA but want to have a social build-up against the legislation, we have no problem… We do not mind if a 1,000 sites are created, but our limited concern is whether you could protest without blocking roads and entering public areas… With every right there comes a responsibility too,” Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had observed.

The court appointed the interlocutors in order to convey its apprehension to the protesters and suggest them to move to an area where they could continue with the protests without causing inconvenience to free movement. It also left it open for advocate Tasneem Ahmadi to talk to former bureaucrat and intervenor Wajahat Habibullah and even take up the court’s apprehensions about prolonged blockade at Shaheen Bagh with the protesters.

Also read | ‘Police barricaded roads with no link to Shaheen Bagh stir’

“The law [CAA] has been enacted by the Parliament and is facing constitutional challenge before this Court, but that by itself will not take away the right to protest of the persons who feel aggrieved by the legislation. However, the question is where and how protest can carry on without public ways being blocked. Our concern is more than this matter alone, as there may be persons of different points of view who may tomorrow seek to emulate this protest, such scenario only leads to chaotic situation. This must cease on public ways everywhere,” the court order on February 17 said.

Habibullah’s affidavit

A fresh affidavit filed by Mr. Habibullah in the court alleged that the police had barricaded numerous number of roads with no connection to the peaceful protests at the Shaheen Bagh.

He submitted that “Shaheen Bagh stands tall as a firm example of a peaceful, dignified dissent, more so, in the face of various instances of State-sponsored violence on similar dissents across India”.

His affidavit said, “We have been sad and mute witnesses to police brutality and negative typecasting of a particular community across the country. Crushing dissent instead of entering into a dialogue is the new norm, but it is alien to our Constitution”.

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