The Supreme Court on Wednesday deferred the hearing on petitions to convince Shaheen Bagh protestors to shift their agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act to an alternative site, saying the “environment is not conducive”, News18 reported.
Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran had on Monday handed over a report of their four-day endeavour to persuade the protestors to move their demonstration to an alternative site, conveniently out of the way of traffic and public movement.
A bench of Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph passed no interim orders and fixed the matter for hearing next on March 23. “Environment isn’t very conducive to hear Shaheen Bagh protests case,” the court said. “Sanity has to be maintained by everyone when a matter is to be heard.”
“Let everything cool down first,” Justice Kaul said. “There are larger issues that need to be handled right now. I expect both sides to act responsibly.”
The top court said that there are “too many ifs and buts” in the report, according to The Indian Express. The problems raised by the report will have to be considered by the court while arriving at a decision.
The court reiterated that the report will not be shared with the petitioners or the lawyers representing the Centre and Delhi Police at this stage.
The bench also asserted that it cannot say repeatedly that the protestors have the right to protest but not to block roads, PTI reported. The court made the observation when advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, appearing for Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nand Kishore Garg, sought some interim order for removal of the protestors. However, the Supreme Court did not pass any such order.
“We have thought of something which was an out-of-the-box solution to the problem,” the bench said, referring to the idea of appointing mediators. “However, we don’t know how far we have succeeded but we must say that the interlocutors have made every endeavour to do whatever necessary to find the solution. We appreciate their efforts.”
The bench said the protestors at Shaheen Bagh must come forward to offer solutions. When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the government, argued that the interlocutors had been appointed to persuade the demonstrators to move to another place and not to find alternatives, the bench asserted that it was happy with the work the interlocutors had done. The top court agreed with Mehta that the “manifestation of dissent should be civilised”.
The protest and the case
The Shaheen Bagh protest, which has been going on since December 15 and is led by women, has been challenged in the Supreme Court by petitioners claiming that the demonstrators have blocked traffic. Wajahat Habibullah, another of the Supreme Court’s interlocutors for the protests, had called the protests peaceful and beautiful, and blamed the police for unnecessarily blocking roads.
The protestors have occupied a stretch of GD Birla Marg – an arterial road connecting Delhi and Noida – which still remains closed. Residents of nearby localities have complained that the blockade is causing them inconvenience, and commuters on this route claim it has added to their travel time.
Scroll.in has mapped the roads in the area and found that the public inconvenience was not merely because of the closure of GD Birla Marg. Two alternative routes that could have been used by commuters have been barricaded by Delhi and the Uttar Pradesh police. The traffic could have passed through the narrower Kalindi Kunj-Mithapur Road that runs parallel to GD Birla Marg, and could have functioned as an alternative route. However, Uttar Pradesh Police have blocked access to this road by placing barricades around the Kalindi Kunj Bridge that connects Uttar Pradesh to Delhi.