UP govt’s ‘name and shame’ hoardings not backed by law, remarks SC at hearing challenging high court verdict
Highlighting the issue of privacy, Justice UU Lalit said that while the court agrees there should not be unruly behaviour, there must be some law which backs the action of putting up the hoardings.Updated: Mar 12, 2020 12:25 IST
The Supreme Court bench asked the Uttar Pradesh government under which law it publicly pasted the posters of the protesters who demonstrated against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA.
Highlighting the issue of privacy, Justice UU Lalit said that while the court agrees there should not be unruly behaviour, there must be some law which backs the action of putting up the hoardings. “In this case, there is no backing of law,” said Justice Lalit.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, then presented a precedent set by the court in its 1994 judgement in R Rajagopal vs State of Tamil Nadu on the issue of privacy. He contended that people who resort to violence and point guns during protest cannot claim right to privacy.
The court, however, refused to stay Allahabad High Court judgement ordering removal of these posters but referred the question of law to a larger bench. “The matter requires further elaboration and consideration,” the two-judge bench said.
The court was hearing a plea filed by the Uttar Pradesh government challenging the Allahabad high court’s March 9 order directing it to remove hoardings containing photos and other personal details of people, who allegedly took part in anti-CAA protests.
A high court bench of chief justice Govind Mathur and justice Ramesh Sinha had ruled that the state government’s action of erecting the hoardings in Lucknow with personal details of the alleged anti-CAA protestors amounted to an infringement of their privacy.
Privacy is an intrinsic part of the right to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution and the actions of the state government amount to an unwarranted interference with the same, the high court added, while directing authorities to remove the hoardings immediately and submit a compliance report on or before March 16.
The Uttar Pradesh Police had on March 5 put up several hoardings across Lucknow, identifying those accused of violence during the protests that took place against the CAA in December last year.
The names, photographs and residential addresses of the accused were on the hoardings and triggered concerns over the safety of those who figured on them. The accused were also asked to pay for the damages to public and private property caused during the protests within a stipulated time or have their properties seized.
The high court on March 7 registered a suo motu public interest litigation and asked the district magistrate and police commissioner of Lucknow to give details about the law under which such hoardings were put up.
On March 8, the high court pulled up the state government for putting up such hoardings and termed it as an “insult of state and its public”, “highly unjust” and an “encroachment” on the personal liberty of the people concerned.
The high court also brushed aside the government’s argument that the hoardings were meant to act as a “deterrent” so that such acts are not repeated. It added while the state is entitled to take actions for the maintenance of law and order, it should not come at the cost of fundamental rights of people.