Delhi HC asks officials to reduce number of Afghans protesting outside UN office
The Delhi high court on Friday asked the Delhi government and the city police to “suitably reduce” the number of Afghan nationals protesting outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), observing that when marriages in Delhi permit only 100 people, how can 500 people be allowed to protest.
Justice Rekha Palli, while hearing a plea by the residents of Vasant Vihar seeking removal of the Afghan protestors protesting outside the UNHCR office in the area, said that there can be no exceptions for the refugees and the law has to be the same for everyone.
“…your difficulties cannot stand in the way of law and order. Even if somebody wants to perform the marriage only 100 are allowed, and these are 500 people sitting there conveniently. They are refugees, we have full sympathy with them. and there can be no question of being unduly harsh on them. But the law has to be law for everyone,” justice Palli said.
“How are you permitting 500? I will have to then considering passing an order limiting it to be 100. Please sort it out and reduce the number of protestors, otherwise I will have to pass directions. …What is this exception? The citizens of Delhi cannot collect in more than 100 but the refugees are allowed to gather in 500. What is the explanation?” the judge asked.
Remarking that the city cannot be put to risk, the court said, “In the meantime, respondents 3 and 4 (Delhi Police and Delhi government) will ensure that Covid-19 protocols are strictly maintained and also ensure that the number of people protesting at the site be suitably reduced”.
The court’s order and remarks came while hearing the plea by Vasant Vihar Welfare Association that the foreign nationals (refugees/ asylum seekers) have gathered outside the UNHCR office at B Block in Vasant Vihar since August 15, including lanes and parks adjoining it, and residents are facing difficulties due to this.
The plea had said besides the problems in mobility, the protestors were not adhering to the social distancing norms and not wearing masks.
On Friday, advocate Satyakam, additional standing counsel of the Delhi government, informed the court that the protestors do not have any permission to protest there. He said that an FIR has also been registered against them for not following the orders of social distancing or exhibiting Covid-appropriate behaviour.
The central government’s standing counsel Ajay Digpaul told the court that the situation was unprecedented and any action against the refugees in distress will have international ramifications. He said that the issue must be seen from a humanitarian angle, and urged the court to grant some more time to take a holistic view for resolve the issue.
The court granted time and listed the matter for further hearing on September 7, saying if the matter is not resolved by then, it will be constrained to pass an order.