New Delhi, March 12 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to put up hoarding, displaying the pictures and addresses of the people who indulged in violence and destruction of property during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, as currently there was no law to back the action and referred the matter to a three-judge bench next week.
The UP government filed an appeal in the apex court challenging the Allahabad High Court order directing it to pull down the roadside hoardings forthwith.
A vacation bench comprising Justices U.U. Lalit and Aniruddha Bose accepted the government’s contention that people who resort to violence in public could not raise the issues on their privacy, but queried the government’s decision “naming and shaming”, which it reckoned permanently labels an individual.
“Privacy has many dimensions. If you wield your gun in a riot, then you cannot claim privacy”, said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the UP government. Justice Lalit agreed on this argument, but said: “Yes, there cannot be vandalism, but the question is could such hoardings be put up?”
He contended before the court that the state administration probed the role of 95 people and concluded 57 of them were responsible for vandalism during anti-CAA protests in Lucknow.
Mehta said the state administration asked these people to pay compensation for the loss of property according to the apex court’s 2009 verdict. He insisted that the administration apprehends these people may dispose of the property; as a result, a stringent action was required.
However, the bench said it understands the anxiety of the state government, “but where is the law for this action of the administration?” Mehta insisted that hoardings were put up following the process of law. The bench replied that there is a difference between an individual and the state. The individual can do anything unless specifically prohibited by the law, but the state can do anything only if permitted by the law.
Senior advocates A.M. Singhvi, Colin Gonsalves, C.U. Singh, representing protesters, submitted before the court that these posters may provoke people to target, hit and lynch the people allegedly accused, and also their family members.
Singhvi, appearing for 1972 batch retired IPS officer S.R. Darapuri, whose photos with personal details, were put out on the posters, contended action of this nature is not permissible against a person convicted in grave offences of child rape and murder.
The bench, after hearing counsels from both sides, observed the matter involved issues of significance and it should be examined by a three-judge bench as soon as possible.
The apex court also did not stay the Allahabad High Court order. “Let papers be placed by the Registry before the Chief Justice of India immediately so that a bench of sufficient strength can be constituted by the Chief Justice of India in the coming week to hear and consider the controversy involved in the matter, said the court.
The top court also granted liberty to those individuals whose names and pictures appeared in the hoardings to implead themselves in the proceedings on the matter.
Uttar Pradesh Advocate General Raghavendra Singh said the administration will not remove posters/hoardings, as the matter has been referred to a larger bench, and if removed, then the matter will become infructuous.
The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by the Uttar Pradesh government challenging the March 9 Allahabad High court order directing the state administration to pull down posters of the accused in vandalism during the protests against the citizenship law.
The High Court also directed the district magistrate and the Lucknow police commissioner to submit a report on the matter by March 16.
The High Court, which took suo motu cognizance on the issue, had termed the move “highly unjust” and said it was an “absolute encroachment on personal liberty of individuals”.