In a surprising move, the Allahabad High Court has taken suo moto cognisance in the Uttar Pradesh Police’s decision to put up huge banners with the photos and addresses of anti-CAA protesters. While hearing the matter on Sunday, a High Court bench comprising Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Ramesh Sinha said that the UP government’s decision was ‘highly unjust’ as it directed the Yogi Adityanath administration to remove all hoardings by 3 PM. The bench also termed the state government’s action ‘encroachment’ on the personal liberty of those concerned.
Later, when the hearing resumed in the presence of the state’s Advocate General, the High Court Bench minced no words as it told the government lawyer that a ‘proper trial should have been held’ and ‘naming people and putting up banners in the absence of any law enabling the same is unacceptable.’ The court has reserved its order.
This was after the cops in Lucknow had put up hoardings carrying addresses of the 28 people as authorities accused them of damaging property during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests in the city in December last year. The UP Police’s decision to ‘name and shame’ those critical of the BJP government’s policies, triggered widespread condemnation.
The hoardings also warned the individuals to pay Rs 64 lakh failing which their properties will be confiscated. Hoardings were installed at important intersections, including the main crossing in the busy Hazratganj area and in front of the Assembly building in Lucknow, reportedly at the behest of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath
Describing it as a mockery of law, retired IPS officer SR Darapuri, whose name also figured among the accused, told news agency PTI, “How can the police put up such hoardings merely on the basis of their own reports? Has any court of law held us guilty? The police action amounts to defamation and violates our right to privacy.”
The government’s brazenness left everyone stunned. Lucknow District Magistrate Abhishek Prakash, an IAS officer, had proudly announced what’s being termed as an unlawful move as he said that around 100 such hoardings are to be put up across the city. A tweet by his office had read, “The notice to recover the losses caused by the damage to public and private properties during the 19 December violence has been made public through hoardings.”
The Allahabad High Court hearing the matter today assumes huge significance since the High Court had gone on a week-long Holi vacation.