Close on the heels of its ultimatum to the Uttar Pradesh government yesterday to act by 3 PM, the Allahabad High Court on 9 March gave it the shape of an order. The court has ruled against the putting up of posters of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) rioters in Uttar Pradesh on the streets of Lucknow.
Advocate-General Raghavendra Pratap Singh, who had moved the court on behalf of the state government on Sunday, argued that the government had done this so that such misadventures would not be pursued further. The court did not agree with his plea. It’s not just the posters, the high court directed the state government not to make public the names, addresses and photos of the rioters in any other manner either.
The high court directed the district magistrate and police commissioner of Lucknow to immediately remove these posters, banners and hoardings of the riot-accused.
The Uttar Pradesh government has to submit a compliance report in this case by 16 March. The next hearing of this matter will be held that day.
Allahabad High Court Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Ramesh Sinha issued this order, saying it was illegal to put photos in posters to recover damages without legal provision. “This is a violation of right to privacy,” the high court said, adding, “It is wrong to display someone’s photo in public places without following the legal process.”
Despite the off day for courts on Sunday (yesterday), the bench of the Allahabad High Court heard the matter. Making a case of violation of one’s right to privacy, the high court took suo motu cognisance of the Lucknow administration’s act of putting up pictures of rioters in public places on hoardings and posters to file the public interest litigation. The court had asked the government, under which law, photographs of protesters had been installed in public places. “Can the government violate the right to privacy without a legal provision?” it asked.
They are criminals: Adv Gen to high court
The advocate-general said that these were people who had violated the law. These people have damaged public and private property, he submitted. The entire process was followed in accordance with the law, he told the high court. He said that these people were first served notice. When they did not turn up in the court, the posters were put up, Singh said.
Calling the rioters criminals of law, the advocate-general questioned the maintainability of the petition. He said that the protestors were knowledgeable about the law; hence, the PIL was not maintainable.
Earlier, the special bench started hearing at 10 AM, but the advocate-general could not reach the court by then. The hearing was deferred to 3 PM when the hearing resumed.
Additional Advocate-General Neeraj Tripathi, Additional Chief Permanent Advocate Shashank Shekhar Singh and Additional Government Advocate Murtaza Ali argued for the Uttar Pradesh government.
There were violent protests against the CAA in December 2019 in Lucknow. Police and the administration, after investigation, put up posters and hoardings with photos of the identified rioters in public places to identify those found guilty.
Riot-accused former IPS officer’s curious case of privacy
These hoardings show the names, photographs and addresses of 53 people. Former IPS officer SR Darapuri and social activist Sadaf Jafar have been named in it.
Darapuri welcomed the Allahabad High Court’s act of taking suo motu cognisance of the hoarding case. He said that the hoardings in the city were a violation of the right to privacy, respect and freedom of citizens. He said, “I welcome the action taken by the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court. The way the state government is behaving and putting up our hoardings, it is a welcome step by the judiciary to take cognisance of it.”
The former IPS officer said further, “I do not know where my pictures were taken. This is illegal and they put it on hoardings. This is a violation of our privacy and it threatens our life and our freedom. I hold the state responsible for this.”
Darapuri was arrested in December 2019 in connection with the violent riots against the CAA. Interestingly, his name, address, phone number, email address and exact geographical location are easily accessible on the world wide web. So, what privacy is he making a song and dance about?