LUCKNOW: In a major jolt to Yogi Adityanath government, the Allahabad High Court, on Monday, issued directives to Lucknow District Magistrate and Lucknow Commissioner of Police to remove all the hoardings comprising names and addresses of 57 anti-CAA protestors put up at major crossings across the state capital Lucknow with immediate effect.
The two-judge division bench comprising Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Ramesh Sinha observed that the state authorities' action amounted violation of Art 21 of the Constitution of India as it was an "unwarranted interference in privacy of people."
It directed the Lucknow DM and the Lucknow police commissioner to submit a detailed report of compliance to the Registrar General of the High Court till March 16, the next date of hearing.
Notably, the court had taken suo motu cognizance of the issue on late Saturday night and had posted the matter for special hearing on Sunday. It had sought the Lucknow District authorities to explain as to under which law they had put up the hoardings with photographs and addresses of the persons allegedly accused of violence and vandalism during anti-CAA protests in Lucknow on December 19-20, last year.
The judges while hearing the case on Sunday morning not only pulled up the Lucknow district authorities calling their action “highly unjust,” it had termed it as an absolute encroachment of personal liberty of the persons concerned.
The bench had deferred the order till 3 pm on Sunday to enable the appearance of Advocate General (AG). The order was again deferred to Monday for the hearing as AG Raghvendra Singh had contested the jurisdiction of the court stating that hoardings were put up in Lucknow and that the principle seat had no jurisdiction in the matter.
He had also argued that the PILs should not be registered to save the lawbreakers. While delivering the order on Monday, the bench reiterated that the court was convinced that the action of the state government was an “unwarranted interference in privacy of people and that it was in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.”
The court also said that the action of publishing names and photos of accused was an invasion of the right to privacy. “It was found that the action had no support of the law as the statute did not prescribe such a procedure of ‘naming and shaming’ of accused,” it said in the order.
The bench also rejected the opposition put up by the AG over the court taking suo motu cognizance of the matter, saying: "Where there is gross negligence on part of public authorities and government, where the law is disobeyed and the public is put to suffering and where the precious values of the Constitution are subjected to injuries, a constitutional court can very well take the notice of that at its own."
The bench added that the court did not require to wait for a person to come to it with a PIL. "The courts are to impart justice and no court can shut its eyes if a public unjust is happening before it," observed the bench.
While referring to AG's submission that the action was intended to come as a deterrent for others, the court said: "The Advocate General failed to satisfy the court as to why the personal data of a
few persons was put on hoardings though in Uttar Pradesh there are lakhs of accused persons facing serious allegations pertaining to commission of crimes whose personal details have not been subjected to publicity." The court also added: "As a matter of fact, the placement of personal data of selected persons reflects colourable exercise of power by the Executive."
The hoardings were put up by the Lucknow district authorities on March 6. It comprised names of 57 persons accused of indulging in violence and vandalism and, 16 of them were served the recovery notice seeking them asking them to pay damages to the tune of Rs 69 lakh towards destruction of property during anti-CAA protests.
While reacting to the High Court order, Darapuri, said that he had full faith in the judicial system of the country. "This order has reiterated that the state of UP would be governed by the law of the land and not by the lawless rule of Yogi Adityanath," he maintained.