The Supreme Court on Monday took suo motu cognisance of the death of an infant at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh – the epicentre of nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the proposed National Register of Citizens – and issued notices to the Centre and the Delhi government, reported Live Law.
The matter was heard by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant. As the proceedings began, lawyer Shahrukh Alam sought to intervene in the matter on behalf of some of the mothers at the Shaheen Bagh demonstration, Bar and Bench reported. She said children were being bullied in schools because of their religion, and pointed out that India had ratified the United Nations convention on children’s right to protest. “A child has died! Was a four-month-old child there to protest?” Bobde asked in response.
The court took up the matter after national bravery award winner Zen Gunratan Sadavarte wrote to them. Sadavarte, 12, said minors should be barred from participating in any type of protest and agitation. She also sought an investigation into the infant’s death.
Four-month-old Mohammad Jahan was taken to the protest site by his parents almost every day. He reportedly died of severe cold and congestion on January 30. A group of lawyers speaking for the Shaheen Bagh protesters contended that even climate activist Greta Thunberg was a child when she became a protestor. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said it was not correct to take minors to protests.
The court also pulled up two lawyers for saying that a few children had been dubbed “Pakistani” and “anti-nationals” in their schools for participating in the protests. “We have the highest respect for motherhood, and highest concern for children,” said the court. “Don’t make arguments to raise and create guilt. We do not want people to use this platform to further create problems. We are not considering either CAA or NRC. We are not considering the abuses like Pakistani hurled in schools.” Bobde told Alam that the court was dealing with the specific question of the child’s death.
Hundreds of women have been protesting at Shaheen Bagh since December 15. The Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch in the Capital has been closed since December 15 after protestors began the sit-in.
The Bharatiya Janata Party had attempted to portray the Delhi elections as a referendum on the ongoing protests, particularly at Shaheen Bagh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, too, had hit out at the Shaheen Bagh protests. Modi had called the protests a “conspiracy”, where the real agenda is being obscured by using the tricolour and the Constitution as symbols. Union minister Anurag Thakur said on February 4 that the locality will be cleared if the saffron party was voted to power. The results of the Delhi Assembly elections will be declared on Tuesday.