New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday told the Uttar Pradesh government on that as of now, there was no law that could back their action of putting up roadside posters of those accused of alleged vandalism during anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protests in Lucknow.
However, the apex court bench refused to stay the March 9 Allahabad High Court order directing the Yogi Adityanath adminstration to remove the posters, and referred the matter to a larger three-judge bench.
The vacation bench, comprising justices UU Lalit and Anirudhha Bose, said the they had referred the case to a larger bench as the matter involved "issues which need further consideration by a bench of sufficient strength", according to a Live Law report. The three-judge bench would consider next week the Uttar Pradesh government's appeal against the Allahabad High Court order directing the state adminstration to remove the posters of those accused of vandalism during anti-CAA protests.
Earlier, the top court, which grilled the Uttar Pradesh government for putting up such posters in public, described the plea as a matter that needed "further elaboration and consideration".
The vacation bench directed the apex court registry to put up the case file before Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde so that a "bench of sufficient strength can be constituted at the earliest to hear and consider" the case next week.
During the hearing, the bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, that it was a matter of "great importance". It asked Mehta whether the state government had the power to put up such posters.
The top court, however, said there was no doubt that action should be taken against rioters and they should be punished.
Mehta told the court that the posters were put up as a "deterrent" and the hoardings only said that these persons were liable to pay for their alleged acts during the violence.
According to the Live Law report, Mehta told the bench that the banners had been put up after the adjudicating authority had heard 95 persons and found that 57 of those were responsible for rioting, adding that these 57 included people from all communities.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for former IPS officer S R Darapuri whose poster has also been affixed in Lucknow, told the bench that the state was duty-bound to show the authority of law backing its action.
He said the action of the Uttar Pradesh government amounted to a "mega blanket" approach of naming and shaming these persons without final adjudication and it was an open invitation to common men to lynch them as the posters also had their addresses and photographs.
“Someone’s intention might be to shame, another’s may be to lynch. How do we differentiate and how do we control?" Singhvi was quoted as saying by Live Law.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, who appeared on behalf of lawyer Mohd Shoaib, told the bench that his client had faced many assaults for taking up cases of minorities, and expressed fear that he may be “attacked or even lynched” after his name was put up among the list of accused in the Lucknow banners, said the report.
At a special sitting on March 8, the Allahabad HC had taken suo motu cognizance of the matter, and on March 9, the HC had asked the UP government to remove the hoardings, saying that the state action amounted to “unwanted infringement of privacy.”