Even as the Supreme Court referred the matter to the Chief Justice of India and to a larger bench, Uttar Pradesh Government’s decision to put up hoardings on the streets with photographs, names and addresses of anti-CAA protestors came in for sharp criticism from some of their lawyers.
Uttar Pradesh Government had challenged the Allahabad High Court’s direction to take down the hoardings and report compliance by Monday, March 16. While the Supreme Court Bench comprising Justice U.U. Lalit and Justice Anirudhh Bose refused to grant a stay and reminded the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Up Government, that there was no law that permitted the state from naming and shaming either the accused or the convicted, it agreed to serve notice on the central government and refer the matter to a larger bench to hear it next week.
Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi asked, “Since when is it allowed in India to name and shame accused persons ?” Even in cases of extreme and severe offences, naming and shaming is not allowed, he pointed out. "it's a mega blanket approach... Can't have this mega blanket approach in cases of naming and shaming and part 3 (of the Constitution)", Singhvi said
Singhvi also pointed out that this Court is agonising over Bank defaulters... “If naming and shaming is allowed and acts as a deterrent, put up banners of defaulters then (like UP Police did with riot accused persons),” he added.
Accusing the Lucknow administration of issuing an invitation to lynch people who figured in the hoardings, Singhvi said, “The SDM was thinking of palm tree justice... This is conviction on the streets of Lucknow. This creates the most incendiary atmosphere and incites the public and creates a lynch mob mentality inviting "come hit him (accused)“.
Senior Counsel Colin Gonsalves also submitted on the issue of whether or not the accused persons are convicted and liable to pay compensation. Justice Lalit pointed out that the Court is on the issue of validity of the State's action to resort to put up such banners.
Gonsalves said he was representing a person featured on the banner and who had, in the past, been assaulted for legally representing clients belonging to minorities. Gonsalves said publication of the address on banners was an invitation to the public to assault him again.
Allahabad High Court took up the case for hearing on Sunday after taking suo moto cognizance. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that once people put themselves in the public domain and public gaze while ‘doing an antisocial activity and the person is videographed by media’, they cannot claim privacy.
Supreme Court said that the question the Court is concerned with is if the authorities can display banners with the names and faces of the people who are accused of rioting.
Justice Bose asked, “ State can do things permitted by law. Where is the State's power to do this?”
Justice Lalit said, “As of now, there is no law that can back your (UP government) actions.”
SG Mehta takes the Court through a precedent laid down by the Supreme Court in R Rajgopal vs State of Tamil Nadu on the issue of privacy which was affirmed by the nine-Judge Bench in the Puttaswamy judgment.
Justice Lalit inquired if time granted to alleged "rioters" for paying of compensation had lapsed. Mehta replied that time had not lapsed but the same had been challenged before High Court. Justice Lalit then said the matter was clearly pending; had the time elapsed, situation could be different.
Justice Lalit says that such drastic steps by authorities should be covered by the law.