On 7th October 2020, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Hon’ble Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Hon’ble Justice Aniruddha Bose and Hon’ble Justice Krishna Murari passed their order in the case of Amit Sahni vs Commissioner of Police & Ors, in connection with Shaheen Bagh Protest.
Hon’ble Judges of Supreme Court observed that they have no hesitation in concluding that occupation of public ways is not acceptable and the administration ought to take action to keep the areas clear of encroachments or obstructions.
The Supreme Court referred to the genesis of the case, which starts from the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. The Supreme Court observed that many petitions had been filed in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India assailing the legality and constitutionality of this amendment, which is pending before the Court. The Supreme Court also acknowledged the fact no stay has been issued against the legislation as of now.
Hon’ble Supreme Court Court then referred to its order dated 17.02.2020 where it was mentioned that even though the legislation was challenged the right to protest is with the people, but the question was how and where the protests should carry on.
The Supreme Court Court then referred to Writ Petition (Civil) No. 429/2020 which was filed in the Delhi High Court where the relief sought was to open the public road Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch, including the Okhla underpass which was occupied by the people protesting against the CAA.
It was directed by the Delhi high court that the respondents shall look into the grievance of the petitioners while ensuring the law and order situation remains stable.
However, the situation remained the same at the site of the protest, so the petitioner filed an SLP before the Supreme Court.
Proceedings Before the Supreme Court
During the proceedings, some intervention applications were filed by people who sympathised with the protest. The Supreme Court Court, through its order dated 17.02.2020 shared their concern with one of the lawyers stating that there may be persons of different points of view who may tomorrow seek to emulate this protest and such a scenario would only lead to a chaotic situation. Such kind of protests was, thus, required to cease on public ways everywhere.
The Supreme Court Court devised a new solution, and two interlocutors – Mr Sanjay R. Hegde and Ms Sadhana Ramachandran were sent to the protest sites to hear out the grievance of the protestors.
The report that was submitted by the interlocutors stated that the demands of the protestors were varied, and there were multiple stakeholders in the protest.
No amicable solution could be reached even with the help of interlocutors.
The Supreme Court Court also observed that due to the COVID -19 pandemic the streets that were occupied by the protestors had been cleared and so the relief that was sought in the first place has been granted by nature.
The Decision of the Court
Supreme Court acknowledged the fact that protestors have a right to hold peaceful protests if they think that their rights were being jeopardised. A reference was made to peaceful protest against the British occupation of our country through which our country got its freedom.
It was also mentioned that places like the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi had been earmarked to hold peaceful protests.
However, the Supreme Court Court held that occupation of public ways, whether at the site in question or anywhere else for protests is not acceptable and the administration ought to take action to keep the areas clear of encroachments or obstructions.
Supreme Court Court also observed that the High Court of Delhi should have monitored the situation rather than dispose of the petition. It was also observed that the duty of respondents was to control the situation and produce the result, and they should not look up to courts for directions on how to carry out their duty.
It was further stated by the Supreme Court Court that administration should act is their responsibility, and they should not hide behind the court orders or seek support therefrom for carrying out their administrative functions.
The proceedings in the instant case have been closed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
Title:- Amit Sahni vs Commissioner of Police & Ors
Case No.: CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3282 OF 2020
Date of order: 07.10.2020
Coram: Hon’ble Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Hon’ble Justice Aniruddha Bose and Hon’ble Justice Krishna Murar
Advocates: Counsel for the applicants Mr Mehmood Pracha; Mr Tushar Mehta for the respondents