The Supreme Court Friday said it cannot issue blanket orders restraining authorities from invoking the stringent National Security Act against people protesting the enactment of Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
IMAGE: Muslims women display posters and placards during a protesting against CAA and NRC in Prayagraj. Photograph: PTI Photo
NSA cannot be allowed to be misused, the top court said but added that there cannot be a general command as public properties are being burnt during the protests and it may be organised.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Indira Banerjee refused to entertain a plea challenging the imposition of NSA in few states as also in the national capital amid anti-CAA protests.
“We are of the opinion that general writ will not lie in this case. We cannot invoke powers under Article 32. We agree that the NSA should not be misused but there cannot be a general command. This will create chaos,” the bench said.
Petitioner-advocate M L Sharma said that anti-CAA protests are going on peacefully in Shaheen Bagh area of Delhi and other places and states should not be allowed to invoke the stringent law against the protesters.
“You show us a specific instance, where it has been done. We cannot issue a blanket order. If a general direction is passed this will create a chaos. You don’t know what is going on in Calcutta, Tripura and Assam. Properties are being burnt and that may be organised. We don’t know the antecedents of people,” the court top said.
Sharma persisted with seeking relief saying that people protesting peacefully may be booked under the law and the court should protect them.
To this the bench said, “If a person is involved in violence and involved in say hundred criminal cases. Then what would government do. Will not the government act?”
It asked Sharma to file an amended petition showing some specific instances where NSA has been invoked against the ant-CAA protesters.
The bench told Sharma that he can also file an intervention application in the pending cases challenging the validity of CAA and seek appropriate relief.
Sharma then sought liberty to withdraw the petition and file an amended petition giving specific details of violations of NSA, which was granted by the court.
Sharma’s plea said NSA has been imposed to curb and pressure people protesting against the CAA, National Population Register and National Register of Indian Citizens.
Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on January 10 had extended detaining powers to Delhi Police under the NSA for a three-month period starting January 19.
This allows police to detain a person for 12 months without a trial.
Sharma had made the Ministry of Home Affairs and the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Manipur parties to the plea.
The plea had termed the notification, allowing police to invoke NSA to detain persons, as “unconstitutional” and violative of fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.
“The cause of actions arose on January 10, when respondents (states) imposed NSA Act for next three months with effect from January 19 in Delhi as well as in Andhra Pradesh by the state government to arrest and detain…for protests against a person holding office of the prime minister and ministers in the Central government…,” the plea said, seeking a direction to quash the notification.
The plea also sought that it be declared that the NSA cannot be used against protesters.
Besides, it sought a compensation of Rs 50,00,000 each to those who have been detained so far under the NSA for “mental agony, defamation in society and loss of reputation”.
Protests are taking place at various places in the country against the enactment of CAA and exercise of National Population Register.