Supreme Court criticises Delhi Police, says this very ‘unconducive’ to hear matter.

The Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors filed their report in a sealed cover in the apex court on Monday following their talks with protestors at Shaheen Bagh, the epicentre of agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) for over two months.

The court had on 17 February asked senior advocate Sanjay Hegde to “play a constructive role as an interlocutor” and talk to the protestors to move to an alternative site where no public place would be blocked.

It had said that Hegde along with advocate Sadhana Ramachandran or any other person of his choice may talk to the protesters.

The interlocutors placed the report before a bench of justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph which said it would peruse the report and hear the matter on 26 February.

The bench made it clear that the report will not be shared with the petitioners or the lawyers representing the Centre and Delhi Police at this stage.

When the counsel representing one of the petitioners requested the court that report be shared with them, the bench said: “We are here. Everyone is here. Let us have the benefit of the report first. The copy of the report is for the court only.”

At the outset, Ramachandran told the court that they are grateful for the opportunity given to them by the court and they had a learning experience, which was positive also.

“Let us examine it (report). We will hear the matter day after tomorrow,” the bench said.

The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by advocate Amit Sahni, who had approached the Delhi High Court seeking directions to Delhi Police to ensure smooth traffic flow on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch, which was blocked by anti-CAA protesters on 15 December last year.

While dealing with Sahni’s plea, the high court had asked local authorities to deal with the situation keeping in mind law and order.

Separately, former BJP MLA Nand Kishore Garg has filed a plea in the apex court seeking directions to authorities to remove protestors from Shaheen Bagh.

An intervention application has also been jointly filed by Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and social activist Syed Bahadur Abbas Naqvi in the matter.

Restrictions have been imposed on the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch and the Okhla underpass, which were closed on 15 December last year due to protests against CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Habibullah has recently filed an affidavit in the court and said that the protest at Shaheen Bagh was peaceful and inconvenience being caused to commuters was due to barricades “unnecessarily” put by police on roads far away from the site.

The same stand has been taken by Naqvi and Azad in their joint affidavit filed in the court in the matter.

The apex court had earlier said that though people have a fundamental right to protest “peacefully and lawfully”, it was troubled by the blocking of a public road at Shaheen Bagh as it might lead to a “chaotic situation”.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Delhi government and Delhi Police, had told the court that the solution is to remove these protestors from the site.

Naqvi and Azad, in their joint affidavit, have alleged that “the present ruling dispensation, at the behest of its political masters, had devised a strategy of extinguishing these protests by falsely attributing violence and acts of vandalism to peaceful protestors”.

Habibullah, in his affidavit, has also stated that the protestors have asked him to convey to the apex court that their dissent “was out of desperation and compulsion” as they see the CAA, National Population Register (NPR) and NRC as a “death knell” for their and future generations’ survival and existence.

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