New Delhi: Adjourning for a week petitions against the Shaheen Bagh protests, the Supreme Court on Monday refused an interim order, preferring persuasion to end the road blockade, fixing the next hearing on Monday.
The court appointed senior advocate Sanjay Hegde and former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, a retired IAS officer, as interlocutors. They will meet the protesters and persuade them to continue with their agitation at another location, so that the commuters are not hassled due to road diversions and blockades.
Shaheen BaghIt also asked Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad, who has become an intervenor, and other intervenors: "Are you in a position to go and talk to the Shaheen Bagh protesters and ask them to leave the site and protest where roads are not blocked."
Hegde told the court that he had never visited the site and it is better if he is accompanied by former SC judge Kurien Joseph. The court, however, said Wajahat will accompany him.
The court also asked the Shaheen Bagh protesters agitating against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to come to a "reasonable solution," so that roads are no longer blocked. "Today you are protesting, others may protest tomorrow. People get ideas."
"Right to protest is a fundamental right. What is the alternative area they can continue the protests without blocking the road. You cannot create inconvenience for the people," said the Bench of Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph while seeking Delhi Police Commissioner's affidavit on the alternative site to protest.
Justice Kaul said: "Democracy works on expression of views. But there are lines and boundaries. Blocking traffic and causing inconvenience to others is our concern. If everybody starts blocking roads, maybe due to genuine concerns, where does it stop?"
Noting that the real question is where to protest, the judge said: "Certain sections of society are aggrieved by the CAA legislation. That legislation is being tested by the Supreme Court....We are not saying that during the pendency, people don't have the right to raise their concerns."
"There must be an area where you can protest. It cannot be held wherever one wants. It has to be in an identified area. Otherwise, people will go and protest anywhere," said Justice Kaul, adding that the protests cannot be held at the cost of the citizens' interest.
The court was hearing an appeal by advocate Amit Shahni, whose petition was rejected by the High Court for directions to police for smooth traffic on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch blocked since December 15, and a petition by Delhi BJP leader Nand Kishore Garg on the traffic disruption due to the protests.
An advocate appearing for Garg sought an interim direction. The Bench, however, declined the request: "If you have waited for over 60 days, you can wait for some more days."