Shaheen Bagh: SC acknowledges right to protest but calls for balancing factor

Protesters stage a demonstration against the CAA, NRC and NPR, at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi. Photo: IANS

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday addressed pleas against the Shaheen Bagh protests, which began as an agitation against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act passed on December 11, 2019.

The apex court said that people have a fundamental right to protest against a law but the blocking of public roads is a matter of concern and there has to be a balancing factor.

Hearing pleas over the road blocks due to the ongoing protests at Shaheen Bagh against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a bench comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph said its concern is about what will happen if people start protesting on roads.

Democracy works on expressing views but there are lines and boundaries for it, it said.

It asked senior advocate Sanjay Hegde and advocate Sadhana Ramachandran to talk to Shaheen Bagh protestors and persuade them to move to alternative site where no public place is blocked.

People have a fundamental right to protest but thing which is troubling us is blocking of public roads, the bench said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that let a message not go that every institution is on its knees trying to persuade Shaheen Bagh protestors on this issue.

If nothing works, we will leave it to the authorities to deal with the situation, the apex court said.

Restrictions have been imposed on the Kaindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch and the Okhla underpass, which were closed on December 15 last year due to the protests against CAA and Register of Citizens.

Hundreds of people have been protesting at South Delhi's Shaheen Bagh braving the winter since the passage of the CAA. The protest was widely noted for its unorganized nature, absence of political affiliations and large presence Muslim women and elderly. A four-month-old infant had died at the camp amidst protests.

Several individuals had approached authorities against the protests after the agitation created severe traffic congestion in the area.

The Citizenship Amendment Act allows illegal migrants of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities, who had fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to secure Indian citizenship before December 2014. The exclusion of Muslims from the list triggered protests across the country, including Shaheen Bagh.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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