NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Centre and Delhi government over the participation of children and infants in demonstrations and agitations.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde took suo moto cognizance on a plea filed by bravery award winner Zen Sadavarte who had written a letter to CJI seeking directives to prevent children from participating in protests.
During the hearing, a group of women from Shaheen Bagh through their lawyer told the bench that even Greta Thunberg was a child when she became a protester and further raised concerns on how their children from the area are being termed as Pakistanis in schools.
On this, CJI questioned the counsels, how could a four-month-old go to the protest site, and how could mothers justify this and told the counsel not to make irrelevant arguments on someone calling a child Pakistani in school, NRC, CAA or detention camps.
“In this proceeding, we are considering the death of a four-month-old child,” CJI remarked.
“We have the highest respect for motherhood, highest concern for children and they should not be treated badly,” CJI said, adding, “Can a 4-month-old child be taking part in such protests?.”
This comes after 12-year-old Zen asked the court to prevent children's involvement in protests following the death of a four-month-old infant, whose mother was a regular at the anti-CAA and NRC demonstration at Shaheen Bagh.
The Class 7 student in her letter claimed that the incident was a violation of the deceased infant's right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
“The newborn babies need a lot of attention and care as they cannot express their pains. They are brought to the protest place which is a violation of their child rights and natural justice,” she wrote while asking for a probe into the death of four-month-old Mohammed Jahan.
Zen, in her letter, has pointed out that little Jahaan's Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution was violated as he accompanied his mother daily for the protests and after returning home at 1 a.m. on January 30, passed away in his sleep.
Zen had received a National Bravery Award in 2019, for guiding 17 people to safety when a fire broke out at Parel's Crystal Tower.
Supreme issues notice to Centre and Delhi government on suo moto cognizance it took after a letter by a Bravery Award winner to stop children and infants' involvement in demonstration and agitations, in wake of the death of a four-month infant of a Shaheen Bagh protestor.— ANI (@ANI) February 10, 2020
“If you can wait for 50 days, you can wait for one more week,” the court said before posting the matter for February 17.
The observation by the top court came in two petitions - one by advocate Amit Sahni and another by BJP leader Nand Kishore Garg.
The bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, expressed anguish over the two women lawyers who made a statement that children who participated in the protests have been dubbed as 'Pakistani' and 'anti-nationals' in their schools.
"We do not want people to use this platform to further create problems," the bench said, expressing unhappiness that the lawyers were deviating from the main issue it taken cognisance of.
"We are not considering either CAA or NRC. We are not considering the abuses like Pakistani hurled in schools," the bench said.
The bench made it clear that it was not stifling anybody's voice.
"We are not stifling any voice. This is a properly constituted suo motu proceedings by the Supreme Court of India," the bench said.
The two women lawyers said they were seeking intervention on behalf of journalist and activist John Dayal and a woman who is the mother of two children.