‘Public road can’t be blocked indefinitely’: SC to Centre on Shaheen Bagh protest

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 01:14 PM IST

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 so-called persecuted minorities from the Muslim-majority nations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The petition complains that the road closure at Shaheen Bagh causes great inconvenience to the public and leads to wastage of precious time, energy and fuel besides overburdening the Delhi-Noida-Direct Flyway, Akshardham and Ashram routes.(Raj K Raj/ HT Photo)
The petition complains that the road closure at Shaheen Bagh causes great inconvenience to the public and leads to wastage of precious time, energy and fuel besides overburdening the Delhi-Noida-Direct Flyway, Akshardham and Ashram routes.(Raj K Raj/ HT Photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByMurali Krishnan

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to immediately order removal of the people who are protesting against the amended citizenship law at the national capital’s Shaheen Bagh but signalled that people could not be allowed to block a public road indefinitely.

“If you can wait for 50 days, you can wait for one more week,” the court said before posting matter for February 17,” Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said as the two-judge bench issued notices to the Centre, Delhi Government and Delhi Police.

The bench, which also comprises justice KM Joseph, said it did not want to take a call on the two petitions that had reached them without hearing the government first. The petitions were filed by lawyer Amit Sahni and Delhi BJP leader Nand Kishore Garg.

But it also signalled that it could not approve a protest that would go on indefinitely at the same location. The bench said the protests could continue but it should be done in an area “designated for protests”.

“You cannot block a public road indefinitely. If everybody starts protesting everywhere, then what will happen,” the bench led by Justice 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.

But at the same time, the judges were conscious that it did not want its decision to impact elections in the national capital. “Why should we influence it?” the bench had responded last week on a request for a decision before the Delhi election.

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 so-called persecuted minorities from the Muslim-majority nations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The law has been criticised by many because of its exclusionary nature. It is also feared that it will be used in tandem with a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The government has clarified that there was no decision to implement a nationwide NRC though it has spoken of plans in parliament and outside that the register is imminent.

The petition complains that the road closure at Shaheen Bagh causes great inconvenience to the public and leads to wastage of precious time, energy and fuel besides overburdening the Delhi-Noida-Direct Flyway, Akshardham and Ashram routes.

The Kalindi Kunj road, Sahni argued, is a vital route since it connects three states -- Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana -- and the road closure has led to huge difficulties not only for the residents of the area but hundreds of thousands of commuters who are not able to use the road because of the blockade.

Lawyer Amit Sahni, who has petitioned the top court against the road closure at Shaheen Bagh, has argued that people had the right to protest but this right is subject to reasonable restrictions and protestors could not be allowed to occupy public roads indefinitely.

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