The Allahabad High Court on Sunday took suo motu cognizance of the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to put up hoardings, displaying the details of those accused of violence during the anti-Citizenship Act protests in Lucknow, reported Bar and Bench. The court reserved its ruling till 2 pm on Monday.
The bench told the advocate general that a proper hearing should have been held instead of naming people and putting up banners, which was “unacceptable”. During the proceedings, the advocate general disputed the court’s jurisdiction in the matter, Live Law reported.
The court said that “good sense” should prevail among state authorities, and noted that the hoardings should be removed. The court asked the state to apprise it of the development by 3 pm, and had adjourned the hearing till then.
The bench, comprised of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Ramesh Sinha, said the state’s action was “highly unjust” and an “absolute encroachment” on personal liberty of the people whose names and photos were displayed.
Last week, the Lucknow administration had put up photos, names and addresses of 53 people at several locations in Lucknow city. Activist Sadaf Jafar, retired IPS officer SR Darapuri, Shia cleric Maulana Saif Abbas, human rights defender Mohammed Shoaib and theatre personality Deepak Kabir are among those who have been named. An official from Chief Minister Adityanath’s office said the hoardings were put up on his instructions.
Speaking about the banners on March 6, Lucknow District Magistrate Abhishek Prakash had said that “around 100 such hoardings will be put up at several places”.
On Friday, the High Court had passed an interim order staying the Bijnor Additional District Magistrate’s order to recover damages from four people accused of destroying public property during anti-CAA protests, Bar and Bench had reported. “Till the next date of listing, no recovery shall be made from the petitioner pursuant to the impugned order dated 24.02.2020 passed by Additional District Magistrate (F/R) Bijnor,” the court had said.
Notices issued to hundreds of people
The Adityanath government had issued notices to hundreds of people in December, seeking damages for destruction of public property during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. At least 295 people in the districts of Lucknow, Kanpur, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Sambhal, Rampur, Bijnor and Bulandshahr reportedly received the notices in connection with property damage worth at least Rs 1.9 crore. In February, the Allahabad High Court stayed a similar recovery notice issued to a Kanpur resident. A plea in the Supreme Court has sought to quash these notices that have been issued.
The punitive measure taken by the state government came amid allegations of police excess during the clashes that erupted on December 20. At least 18 people were killed during the demonstrations – a large number of them from firearm injuries.
Many of those who have been named in the hoardings are currently out on bail. An analysis of 13 court orders from Muzaffarnagar, Varanasi and Lucknow by Scroll.in showed that judges are granting bail to many of those arrested because the police have been unable to put forward evidence.