Shaheen Bagh blockade: Supreme Court to take call after March 23
The Supreme Court on Wednesday put off taking a call on the blockade in Shaheen Bagh till March 23, prolonging an issue that has become a commuter’s nightmare as well as a potential flashpoint in the national capital.
The two-judge bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Jospeh said present environment isn’t conducive to pass orders.
While the court observed that protests can’t go on indefinitely on roads, it wasn’t immediately clear whether the Delhi Police would try and relocate the protesters to another venue, or wait till March 23. Shaheen Bagh is the site of a sit-in by protesters against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
The court also refused to entertain applications urging the court to pass directions on the violence that has gripped parts of the capital since Saturday. The court said it will confine itself to the issue concerning the blockade in Shaheen Bagh, noting that the Delhi high court was already seized of a case concerning the violence in the national capital.
However, the court had some strong words for the way Delhi Police has handled the violence. Loss of lives in the capital in communal clashes is a serious issue, and inaction by the police and a lack of professionalism in the police force were major reasons for the violence getting out of hand, it remarked.
Justice KM Joseph was particularly critical of the police who, he said, should have taken prompt action in line with the law instead of waiting for orders.
“The moment an inflammatory remark is made, police should take action. Not just Delhi, any other state for that matter. Thirteen lives are not small. Police should act as per the law,” justice Joseph said.
Clashes between Hindu and Muslim groups in several neighbourhoods of north-east Delhi has left at least 27 people dead until Wednesday night.
The petitions against the road blockade in Shaheen Bagh were filed by advocate Amit Sahni and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nand Kishore Garg, seeking to lift the road blockade in the Shaheen Bagh-Kalindi Kunj stretch. Sahni, in his plea, stated that the road closure in Shaheen Bagh had caused great inconvenience to citizens. He contended that the road closure and the consequent traffic diversion had led to wastage of time, energy and congested alternative routes from Delhi to Noida.
The court has appointed senior advocate Sanjay Hegde and advocate Sadhana Ramachandran as interlocutors to talk to the protesters, mainly women, in Shaheen Bagh and coax them into shifting their protest to an alternative location that would not inconvenience public.
The interlocutors submitted a report to the court in a sealed cover Monday.
Justices Kaul and Joseph will hear the case on March 23, when the court reopens after the Holi vacation.
But justice Joseph also wanted to weigh in on the violence. “I want to say certain things. If I don’t, I won’t be discharging my duty, my loyalty lies to the institution,” he said.
Solicitor general Mehta requested him not to make adverse remarks against the police. Justice Joseph, however, came down on the police for its failure to take prompt action.
Justice Joseph said the police need not wait for anybody’s nod to act in accordance with the law and that the guidelines prescribed by the Supreme Court in the 2006 judgment in the case of Prakash Singh v Union of India to secure the independence of the police should be followed.
Justice Kaul then states that all parties and stakeholders affected by the situation should “lower their temperatures”.