The Supreme Court on Monday appointed senior lawyers Sanjay Hegde, Sadhna Ramachandran and former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah as interlocutors, and asked them to talk to protesters at Shaheen Bagh to convince them to hold the agitation at an alternative site. A bench of Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph observed that people have a fundamental right to protest, but added that "the thing that is troubling us is blocking of public roads".
Democracy works on expressing views but there are lines and boundaries for it, the court observed. "If nothing works, we will leave it to the authorities to deal with the situation," the bench further said.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said a message should not go out that every institution is on its knees trying to persuade Shaheen Bagh protesters on this issue.
The Supreme Court has fixed the date for the next hearing of the case on 24 February.
Restrictions have been imposed on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch and the Okhla underpass, which have been closed since 15 December last year due to the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens.
News18 reported that the demonstrators at Shaheen Bagh have said, "We are ready to speak to the Supreme Court-appointed mediators."
Profiles of the interlocutors
Sanjay Hegde is a senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, and has been working in the legal profession since 1989. According to News18, he has worked on several high profile cases and appeared for the Union government before an international arbitral tribunal. From 1996 to 2004, he was on the Union of India’s arguing panel before the Supreme Court. In recent months, Hegde has represented people excluded from the NRC and petitioners in the Aarey metro car shed dispute in Mumbai.
Hegde has also been in the news due to the suspension of his Twitter account twice — once for posting an anti-Nazi picture and then for sharing a poem by Hindi poet Gorakh Pandey.
Sadhna Ramachandran is also a senior advocate, and has been practicing in the Supreme Court since 1978. As noted in a report in Hindustan Times, she has worked as the organising secretary of the Delhi High Court's mediation and conciliation centre and has been involved in training several lawyers in different high courts.
Wajahat Habibullah is a retired IAS officer and has served as the first Chief Information Commissioner of India. He was also a former chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities. In January, he was among several people who moved the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Background of the case
A public interest litigation, filed by Nand Kishore Garg and Amit Sahni through their lawyer Shashank Deo Sudhi last week, sought appropriate directions to the Centre and others for removal of protesters from Shaheen Bagh near Kalindi Kunj.
It stated that people in Shaheen Bagh are illegally protesting against the CAA by blocking the common and public road connecting Delhi to Noida.
The petition seeks appropriate direction to the respondents, including the Union of India (UOI) for laying down detailed, comprehensive and exhaustive guidelines relating to outright restrictions for holding protest/agitation leading to obstruction of public places.
On Sunday, the protesters had tried to march to Home Minister Amit Shah's residence for a dialogue over the amended citizenship law, but were stopped by police after a little distance from the sit-in site as they did not have permission from authorities to take out the rally.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Feb 17, 2020 17:01:29 IST