The Supreme Court today refused to relieve the Uttar Pradesh government in the case of posters plastered across the city of Lucknow as notice to the rioters to compensate for the properties they have damaged or face confiscation of their own properties. The Allahabad High Court had, the day before yesterday, ordered their removal. The Yogi government had challenged the high court order in the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court has, however, referred the matter to a larger bench.
The vacation bench of Justice Umesh Uday Lalit and Justice Anirudh Bose referred the matter to a larger bench. Justice Lalit said that the Chief Justice (SA Bobde) would look into the matter.
The apex court also allowed all persons, whose names are in the hoardings, to present their case before the highest court of the country.
S-G’s arguments in Supreme Court
Earlier, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta said in the court that 95 people had initially been identified and their pictures were put on hoardings. There is evidence against 57 of these people, but the accused have now challenged the displays of their names and photos in public places in the high court, citing their right to privacy, he said and added, “but the 1994 decision of the Supreme Court in the Puttaswamy case had dealt with other aspects of the right to privacy”.
“There is an assumption that you have waived your right of privacy by appearing in public,” Mehta said. “You are in a public domain here. If you wield your gun in a riot, you cannot claim privacy.”
The S-G referred to a verdict of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom that had said such posters were “not only a measure to act as a deterrent” but also to recover “liabilities” from the rioters.
To this, Justice Lalit said if people of a particular organisation appeared in front of riots or destruction of public property, the government’s action against them would be a separate issue, but what is the logic behind putting a picture of ordinary citizens? The solicitor-general said the Uttar Pradesh government put up these hoardings — and communicated the same to the media — only after warning the rioters and seeking information from them.
People may not be restrained, government still bound by law: SC
Justice Anirudh Bose said that this was the difference between the people and the government. Many times, people break the law and do something, but the government is restrained to run and work according to the law.
Justice Lalit said that at the moment there was no law supporting the action of the Uttar Pradesh government. “If there is a law, tell me,” the judge exclaimed.
Mehta said that the Supreme Court of Britain had provided that if an issue or action was directly related to the public or comes in the public record, privacy no longer mattered. Removing the hoarding is not a big deal, the S-G said, but the issue is larger. Any person can do anything in private life but all of that cannot be approved in public.
The S-G said, “After issuing notices to the accused, we made a final decision when we did not get any response. We must recover damages from these 57 people. We gave a 30-day extension for the payment.”
Singhvi defends Darapuri
Abhishek Manu Singhvi of the Indian National Congress (INC) today raised the issue of former IPS officer SR Darapuri, after citing Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s order to justify the British Royal Supreme Court’s operation exposé in law. Singhvi said that the UP government had ignored some basic rules. “Take the case of a child rapist and a murder accused. Since when do we have in this country a policy to name and shame them? If there is such a policy, a man walking in the streets is liable to be lynched…” he said.
“I can imagine if a private person does this [puts up posters],” Singhvi said. “ But I don’t think we have anarchy yet that a state is doing this.”
Singhvi said that despite the passage of three years after the Supreme Court order on black money, the government had not yet made public the bank defaulters’ names. “This is pick-and-choose,” Singhvi remarked, adding that the UP government had issued a government order and notified it. “Where is the final order of the authority? This is a mega-blanket approach to name and shame me!”