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Will seek to balance rights of individual, others: Habibullah

New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) Former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, against the backdrop of the Supreme Court recognising right to protest as a fundamental right, said that he would engage with people protesting at Shaheen Bagh in a manner where “right of an individual is protected and the rights of others are not interfered with”.

The Supreme Court on Friday named a three-member team of interlocutors led by senior advocate Sanjay Hegde along with Habibullah and advocate Sadhana Ramachandran.

Habibullah has, along with Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad, filed an intervention application on the matter.

Speaking to IANS after the hearing on the matter, Habibullah said: “It is very good to note that the country’s top court spoken on the fundamental right to protest. I am waiting for the copy of the order of the apex court. After having a look at the order, I will plan on the process of engagement with people at Shaheen Bagh accordingly.”

Queried on the constitutional rights of the people, he insisted that it is a good sign to see the Supreme Court referring to the Constitution in identifying the fundamental rights of the people.

A bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and comprising Justice K.M. Joseph said the right to protest is a fundamental right, but it is troubling to see protesters blocking the road at Shaheen Bagh, as it may set a bad precedent and spur action by other groups resulting in chaos, and suggested that the protest may shift to an alternate venue.

Habibullah said the team will begin the process of engagement with the people.

Meanwhile, Hegde, in a statement, said: “My colleague Sadhana Ramachandran and I accept the responsibility placed upon us by the Supreme Court. We will be meeting all parties with a view to assisting them to resolve their issues in a manner that respects and safeguards both the right to protest and the requirements of orderly civic life.”

He said that he hopes that their assistance “leads to these matters being resolved in good faith and to the satisfaction of all parties”.

The apex court also suggested that the Delhi Police may also offer an alternative site to the protesters at Shaheen Bagh. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta contended before the court that protesters can’t continue blocking roads on grounds of not getting an alternative site. To this, the court replied: “It is fundamental right of people to protest and people can protest.”

Mehta also contended that the message that every institution has been kneeling and praying to the protesters should not go out. Justice Joseph queried Mehta then why did the government take steps before this matter was brought before the top court.

“Why didn’t you act in last 68 days?” he asked.

(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at sumit.s@ians.in)

–IANS

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