Why are people on streets? Delhi judge tells it like it is
A court has said people are out on the streets as what should have been said inside Parliament was “not said”.
Additional sessions judge Kamini Lau made the observation during the bail hearing of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, who was arrested during a recent rally in old Delhi against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
Azad has a constitutional right to protest and Delhi police were behaving as if the Jama Masjid was Pakistan, the judge said. Azad has been in jail since December 21.
The bail hearing will resume on Wednesday and observations are not legally binding. But the observations by a judge do carry certain heft, especially at a time the government has been creating an impression that the protests are against the national interest.
“Have you read the Constitution?” the judge asked prosecutor Pankaj Bhatia who was appearing for the police.
Azad has been accused of incitement during an anti-CAA protest at the Jama Masjid on December 20.
“Inside Parliament, things which should have been said were not said and that is why people are out on the streets. We have full right to express our views but we cannot destroy our country. We cannot disintegrate it,” the judge said.
When the judge asked about evidence, the police counsel referred to social media posts of the Bhim Army chief in which he had asked people to reach the Jama Masjid and sit on “dharna”.
The judge asked: “What is the problem with going to Jama Masjid? What is wrong with dharna? It is one’s constitutional right to protest. Where is the violence? What is wrong with any of these posts? Have you read the Constitution?
“You are behaving as if Jama Masjid was Pakistan and even if it was Pakistan, you can go there and protest. Pakistan was a part of undivided India,” the judge said.
Lawyer Mehmood Parcha, representing Azad, later told The Telegraph: “In my view, the whole approach of the government was to project that the anti-CAA and NRC protests were only being done by Muslims. This has been defeated by the participation of Azad in the protest. Azad also said the CAA and the proposed NRC were against Dalits, the tribals and the poor. That is why he was arrested. He has done no wrong.”
The court asked the investigating officer of the police to put on record all the evidence which showed that Azad was allegedly giving inflammatory speeches at the gathering at the Jama Masjid and any law which showed that the gathering there was unconstitutional.
When Bhatia said permission was required to hold such protests, the judge said: “What permission? Even the Supreme Court has said repeated use of Section 144 (which prohibits gatherings of five or more persons) was an abuse of the law....”
The judge said: “I have seen many people and many such cases, where protests happened even outside Parliament. Many of them are chief ministers now. Azad is a budding politician, what is wrong with his protests?”
The judge asked if the police had any video or audio recording showing objectionable content against Azad. “We just have a drone CCTV footage,” the public prosecutor said.
The judge said: “Do you think Delhi police are so backward that they have no tools to record? There must have been some recording....
“Also show is there any prohibition on such gathering? Show any law that prohibits this kind of gathering.”
The judge observed that Azad, having a law degree, can also protest inside the courts, and went on to add that he probably needs to research more on Ambedkarite philosophy. “In the colonial era the protests were out on the roads. But your protest can be legal, inside the courts...,” the judge added.
“Probably Azad has a vague idea of what he wants to say. He is not able to exactly formulate it. He may not be wrong. But probably not able to put it across. If you take up an issue, you do your research. And that is missing,” the court said.