The Allahabad High Court on Sunday termed putting up of roadside banners with photographs and information of people asked to pay compensation for damage to property during anti-CAA protests “highly unjust”, and hoped that they will be removed. But the Uttar Pradesh government claimed that it was a “deterrent” action and the court should not interfere in such a matter.
The court, which had on March 7 taken suo motu cognisance of the issue and asked the district magistrate and divisional commissioner of Lucknow to inform it about the law under which such posters/hoardings were put on the streets of the state capital, on Sunday reserved its order till March 9.
Taking up the matter on Sunday, a bench comprising Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Ramesh Sinha termed the action of Uttar Pradesh authorities as “highly unjust” and said it was an absolute encroachment on personal liberty of individuals.
It later adjourned the matter till 3 pm as Additional Advocate General Neeraj Tripathi informed the court that the Advocate General would represent the state government.
As the bench rose, it expressed the hope that “good sense would prevail” on the State and it would remove the hoardings before 3 pm and apprise the court about this at that time.
When the hearing resumed, Advocate General Raghvendra Pratap Singh contended that the court should not interfere in such matter as a public interest litigation, as those involved have damaged public and private property.
The Advocate General termed the act of the state government putting up the posters of alleged CAA protesters as a ‘deterrent’ so that such incidents of violence are not repeated in future.
The court then reserved its order till 2 pm on March 9, 2020.
The state police has put up several hoardings across Lucknow identifying those accused of violence during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 in December last year.
The names, photographs and residential addresses of the accused are listed in the hoardings and they have been asked to pay for the damage to public and private property within a stipulated time or have their properties seized by the district administration.
Many of these people said they fear for their safety.
Activist-politician Sadaf Jafar had termed the move ‘unethical’ and vowed to take legal recourse.
“How can we be publicly humiliated for something that has not yet been proved in the court?” she questioned.
“This is not Afghanistan. Legal issues cannot be brought into public like this. Our bail order says there is no adequate evidence against us,” Jafar told PTI.
She was arrested after the violence in Lucknow and was later granted bail.
“We are not absconding,” she said, adding that they have appeared before the court and police whenever asked.
Sadaf was arrested from the protest site at Parivartan Chowk on the evening of December 19 during the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in Lucknow. An FIR was registered against 34 people, including Sadaf Jafar, at Hazratganj police station in Lucknow.
Former IPS officer, S R Darapuri, who was also arrested—and granted bail in January—claimed that the move is illegal.
“Our life, property and freedom have been put in jeopardy by putting up these posters and our reputation has been damaged,” he had said.
Darapuri had said that he was writing to the state home secretary, director general of police and police commissioner, telling them that if they faced any trouble because of the posters, it would be the administration’s responsibility.
“We will challenge it in court collectively and demand the immediate withdrawal of the posters as well as action against the officials responsible for it,” he had said.
Earlier on Friday, the Allahabad High Court had stayed an order passed by the Additional District Magistrate, Bijnor on February 24—directing four persons to pay compensation for damaging public properties during anti-CAA protests in Lucknow on December 19. The division bench comprising Justice Manoj Misra and Justice Deepak Verma had said that the a coordinate bench of the high court had already heard a similar petition [Mohd Faizan vs State of UP and others] and sought replies from the state government. So, it has now clubbed the two cases and listed a joint hearing on the issue for April 20.
Also read: Fact-finding Report from UP: Young Victims of State Violence Narrate Ordeal