The Supreme Court on Monday set up a mediation team led by senior advocate Sanjay Hegde to talk to the people protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi, Live Law reported. Hundreds of protestors, mainly women and children, have been protesting at the site since December 15.
Senior advocate Sadhana Ramachandran will be on the mediation panel. She and Hegde will also consult with former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who had filed an intervention petition in the case.
The bench, comprising Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph, said that though people have the right to protest, they cannot block a road to do so. “Democracy works on expression of views,” Justice Kaul said. “But there are lines and boundaries. If you wish to protest, while the matter is being heard here, that’s also okay...Blocking traffic and causing inconvenience is our concern.”
The court was hearing the petitions filed by lawyer Amit Sahni and Nand Kishore Garg seeking that Shaheen Bagh be cleared of protestors. It will hear the plea next on February 24.
A lawyer for an intervenor submitted that essential services like school buses and ambulance services are being provided passage. However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the government, said there was a total blockade. “We have tried to hold several meetings,” he said. “You cannot hold an entire city hostage under the garb of protests.” The bench then asked Hegde if he could talk to the demonstrators.
On Sunday, the protestors had begun a march to Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s residence, taking up his open invitation to speak to him about the amended law. However, the march was aborted after the Delhi Police said no permission had been granted for it.
Ahead of the recently concluded Delhi polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party had tried to present it as a referendum on the anti-Citizenship Act protests, especially the one at Shaheen Bagh. However, the BJP secured just eight out of 70 seats, while the Aam Aadmi Party won 62 seats.
At an event on Thursday, Shah said: “I want to say that they [Shaheen Bagh protestors] should ask for time from my office. Within three days I will give time.” The minister added that he will meet anyone as long as the discussion is “done on merits”.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11 last year, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims, leading to protests against it. At least 29 people have died during the protests with 19 in Uttar Pradesh, six in Assam, two in Karnataka – all ruled by the BJP. Two people were killed in West Bengal last month.