‘Highest concern for children’, says Supreme Court on death of infant at Shaheen Bagh; issues notice to Centre and Delhi govt
The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to Centre and Delhi government on participation of children in wake of the death of a four-month-old infant of a Shaheen Bagh protester.
“We have the highest respect for motherhood, highest concern for children and they should not be treated badly,” the bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde told the lawyers of the mothers who are protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA at Shaheen Bagh.
The court had taken suo moto cognizance of the issue after the death of the infant in Shaheen Bagh, where anti-CAA protests have been going on for almost two months. The baby had passed away in his sleep on the night of January 30 after returning from Shaheen Bagh.
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The matter was initiated by the top court based on a letter by a 12-year-old Mumbai girl who was the recipient of National Bravery Award in 2019.
Zen Gunratan Sadavarte, a recipient of the 2019 Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW) National Bravery Award, had said in her letter that the parents of the baby and the organisers of the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh had “failed” to protect the rights of the kid, resulting in his death. She had also sought directions to prevent children from participating in demonstrations as it “amounts to cruelty”.
Sadavarte had helped in evacuation operation during the fire that broke out in Mumbai’s Crystal Tower in August 2018. She guided 17 people to safety.
Lawyers representing some women protesters raised the issue of discrimination faced by their children at schools and detention of children at camps.
A lawyer appearing for three women said, “Children come home from school crying because they are called Pakistanis and terrorists.”
CJI Bobde, however, refused to entertain those arguments stating that it is completely unrelated to the case.
“You cannot use this platform to make such statements. That is not being considered here”, he said. Further arguments by lawyers on similar lines were met with stronger response from the CJI.
“We don’t want people to use this platform to make situation worse. You cannot make irrelevant arguments. This case is not on CAA, NRC, or students being called Pakistanis,” he said.
While hearing a case against the nearly two-month-long protest at Shaheen Bagh in south Delhi, the court also signalled that people could not be allowed to block a public road indefinitely and posted the matter for further hearing on February 17.
“You cannot block a public road indefinitely. If everybody starts protesting everywhere, then what will happen,” the bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said.
The top court had last week put off hearing two petitions filed against the protests in south Delhi in light of the assembly elections held on February 8. The bench had then indicated that it recognised that there was a problem and intended to examine how to resolve it.
Shaheen Bagh has become the epicentre of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which empowers the government to fast-track the grant of Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities from the Muslim-majority nations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.