On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court passed an order in response to a petition asking for an end to the protest at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi. From December 15 onwards, hundreds of protestors have blocked a stretch of road passing through the Shaheen Bagh area to express their opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.
The High Court order was reported by some sections of the media as one which directed the Delhi Police to clear the protestors.
Some journalists reported that Delhi Police would use this order to initiate the clearing out of Shaheen Bagh.
What it actually says
There is just one problem – the order says nothing of the sort.
The Delhi High Court issued no directions to the Delhi Police to clear Shaheen Bagh. The order, instead, asks Delhi Police to do as it sees fit – which was exactly the situation before the court delivered its judgement. In other words, the court did not change the status quo.
The order simply directs the Delhi Police to “look into the grievances ventilated by the petitioner” while also keeping in mind “the larger public interest as well as the maintenance of law and order”.
The court is, in fact, categorical that it is not taking a stance on any issue concerning Shaheen Bagh and all decisions will have to be taken by the Delhi Police. “In such a situation, no specific writ, order or direction can be issued by this court as to how to handle the agitation or protest or the place of protest and the traffic,” the order states. “It all depends on the ground reality and wisdom of the police, where situations may keep changing every 10 minutes.”
That Delhi Police is possibly misrepresenting the Delhi High Court order in its conversations with journalists represents a pattern, where BJP-controlled police forces across the country have taken extra-legal steps to snuff out protests against the CAA and NRC.