On Thursday, the Supreme Court referred the Special Leave Petition filed by the State of Uttar Pradesh against the March 6 judgment of Allahabad High Court directing removal of the posters erected by the UP administration in Lucknow to a larger three-judge bench.
A Supreme Court vacation bench comprising Justice UU Lalit and Justice Aniruddha Bose said that the matter involves “issues which need further consideration by a bench of sufficient strength” and referred it to a larger bench for consideration next week. However, the bench did not pass any order staying the operation of the direction of the Allahabad High Court.
“We direct, let the papers be placed before the Hon’ble CJI so that a bench of sufficient strength consider the matter in the coming week”, stated the bench in the order.
During the hearing, the Supreme Court vacation bench asked the Uttar Pradesh government under which law it publicly put up the posters of the protesters who demonstrated against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Highlighting the issue of privacy, Justice UU Lalit said that while the court agrees there should not be unruly behaviour, there must be some law which backs the action of putting up the hoardings. However, in this case, there is no backing of the law, said Justice Lalit.
Representing the Uttar Pradesh government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta cited a precedent set by the court in its 1994 judgement in R Rajagopal vs State of Tamil Nadu on the issue of privacy. He contended that people who resort to violence and point guns during a protest cannot claim the right to privacy.
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for former IPS officer SR Darapuri, one of the rioters whose name was published in the posters, submitted that the action of government amounted to an “appeal for lynching”. Singhvi submitted that even the names of child rapists and serious criminals were not published. He also pointed out that the issue of recovery of damages was still sub-judice.
Another Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for lawyer Mohammad Shoaib, submitted that his client has faced assaults in the past for taking up the causes of minorities, and he may be attacked or even lynched following the publication of his name and address in the banners.
Senior Advocate CU Singh submitted that the UP Government was following a “vindictive approach” and that a “section of people is being targeted”.
The court was hearing a plea filed by the Uttar Pradesh government challenging the Allahabad high court’s March 9 order directing it to remove hoardings containing photos and other personal details of people, who were allegedly involved in anti-CAA riots.
A high court bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Ramesh Sinha had ruled that the state government’s action of erecting the hoardings in Lucknow with personal details of the alleged anti-CAA protestors amounted to an infringement of their privacy.
However, Yogi Adityanath led Uttar Pradesh government had vowed to move the Supreme Court against the Allahabad High Court order in its bid to continue “profiling” the rioters.
On March 5, the Uttar Pradesh government had put up hoardings of 57 anti-CAA rioters in prominent intersections in state capital Lucknow. The hoardings included their names, addresses and photos of the rioters who damaged public property during the riots that claimed 22 lives in December last year. The accused were also asked to pay for the damages to public and private property caused during the protests within a stipulated time or have their properties seized.