The Supreme Court said on Monday that people have a fundamental right to protest against a law but the blocking of public roads is a matter of concern and there has to be a balancing factor.The Supreme Court told Shaheen Bagh protesters to come to a “reasonable solution” so that roads are no longer blocked. The court also appointed senior advocate Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran as interlocutors.
Supreme Court on Monday told Shaheen Bagh protesters to come to a “reasonable solution” so that roads are no longer blocked.
The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by advocate Amit Sahni, who had approached the high court seeking directions to the Delhi Police to ensure smooth traffic flow on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch, which remains blocked by anti-CAA protesters since December 15.
“You have the right to protest but let the roads not be blocked. This can create chaos. Today you are protesting, others may protest tomorrow. People get ideas,” the Supreme Court observed during the hearing.
The court has appointed interlocutors and will now take up the matter next Monday (February 24).
When advocate Amit Sahni brought up Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad’s comment that “there will be 5,000 more Shaheen Baghs”, the Supreme Court bench said, “We have no problem with 5,000 protests. We just want those roads are not blocked. What’s troubling us is a very limited scope which is blocking of roads. There is a fundamental right to protest.”
“Maybe a section of society is very aggrieved but there is a mode and manner in which protests can be done. Something that does not affect traffic flow,” the court added.
The Supreme Court asked Chandrashekhar Azad, who had moved an intervention in the appeal filed by advocate Amit Sahni, and other intervenors to “try and speak to the Shaheen Bagh protesters and ask them to leave the site”.
Chandrashekhar Azad, along with two others, has filed the intervention application and alleged that alternate roads have been blocked by the administration on the pretext of the Shaheen Bagh protests to deliberately cause traffic jams for commuters in Delhi, Noida and Faridabad and create inconvenience.
Taking cognizance of the intervention plea, the Supreme Court has also asked the Delhi Police Commissioner to file an affidavit to suggest a solution to the road blockage.
The Supreme Court asked senior advocate Sanjay Hegde and advocate Sadhana Ramachandran to act as interlocutors and persuade protestors to move to an alternative site where no public place is blocked.
The court 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.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that let a message not go that every institution is on its knees trying to persuade Shaheen Bagh protestors on this issue.
If nothing works, we will leave it to the authorities to deal with the situation, the apex court said.
The apex court had on February 10 said the anti-CAA protestors, who are holding agitation at Shaheen Bagh, cannot block public roads and create inconvenience for others.
The top court had said that people are entitled to protest but it has to be done in an area identified for agitations and it cannot be done on a public road or a park.
Restrictions have been imposed on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch and the Okhla underpass, which were closed on December 15 last year due to the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Besides Sahni, former Delhi MLA Nand Kishore Garg has also filed a petition in the apex court seeking directions to authorities to remove the protestors from Shaheen Bagh.