New Delhi: The Allahabad High Court has appointed Senior Advocate SFA Naqvi and Advocate Ramesh Kumar as amicus curiae to assist the court in deciding whether situation in Uttar Pradesh, in the wake of protests against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the following police crackdown on the agitators, is “antithetical to core constitutional values” and warrants judicial interference.
It came after a lawyer — Ajay Kumar — who practices at Bombay High Court wrote to Allahbad High Court Chief Justice Govind Mathur through e-mail, referring to the new article published in the New York Times dated January 2 and The Telegraph dated December 29, which have details of alleged police excesses during the crackdown on the agitators.
The High Court’s division bench comprising Chief Justice Mathur and Justice Vivek Varma has treated the e-mail as a public interest litigation (PIL) and has issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government, asking to reply as to why the prayer for a judicial enquiry into the acts of alleged police violence should not be admitted. The court fixed January 16 for the next date of hearing.
“Having considered the contents of the letter and the documents annexed thereto, we considered it appropriate to treat the letter as a petition for writ. The Registry has accordingly registered this public interest litigation. During the course of hearing, Mr SFA Naqvi, senior advocate of this court, has also brought into notice a news report published in The Indian Express, Lucknow Edition, dated 7th January, 2020. The same be also taken on record. Let a notice be issued to the State of Uttar Pradesh as to why necessary directions as prayed be not issued,” said the court.
Naqvi, during the hearing, presented an additional new report published in the Lucknow edition of The Indian Express dated January 7 on the same topic, which was too taken on record.
Earlier, UP Human Rights Commission (UPHRC) had taken suo moto cognisance of the media reports and had directed the chief secretary of the state to make a “detailed enquiry of all the related incidents” involving UP Police during the anti-CAA protests and send a report within four weeks.
Many died and several others suffered injuries allegedly when the police opened fire and resorted to lathi charge at rallies and sit-ins organised to register protests against the contentious legislation.
“Allegations are raised at certain quarters, including the media that these deaths, scores of injured persons and the consequent violation of human rights, was the result of police excesses and reckless handling by the police. The Commission finds it a fit case for an inquiry by taking suo-motu cognisance,” stated the order dated December 30, 2019.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had also last month issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police Dr Om Prakash Singh in the matter after the former received complaints seeking its intervention in the alleged incidents of violation of human rights by the cops against protesters and sought a report within four weeks.
“There have been many incidents of human rights violations. Youth have been killed, the internet has been suspended and the police themselves are destroying public property. The right to peaceful assembly has also been violated,” said the complaint submitted to the NHRC.
The same division bench, hearing another PIL filed by one Mohammad Aman Khan, earlier directed the NHRC to complete the probe into the alleged police violence that took place in the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) during the anti-CAA protests on December 15 night.
The petitioner had sought directions from the court to set up a court-monitored committee to conduct a judicial inquiry into the acts of police violence. He had also sought an order directing the state to declare names of those students and residents of AMU who had been detained by the police. He had also urged the court to initiate criminal proceedings against police and paramilitary personnel who can be recognised from the videos and audios committing violence against the students.
The High Court has directed the rights body to complete the probe within a month. The case has been listed for hearing on February 17.
Meanwhile, the state government has since maintained that the state police exhibited utmost restraint even in the face of arson and violence by protesters across the state, including in Lucknow. Although, the police claimed that none died in police firing, yet several people lost their lives during the spiralling violence during anti-CAA protests in several places.
The government has warned that those responsible for violence and destruction of public properties would not be spared and attachment notices would be issued against them. So far, nearly 500 people have been identified for causing damage to public and private properties in UP.