- Hoardings put up by Uttar Pradesh government
- They have names of accused of violence during anti-CAA protests
- Court of Chief Justice Govind Mathur has taken up case
The issue of government hoardings in Uttar Pradesh -- naming those accused of violence during protests against the controversial citizenship law -- was taken up by the Allahabad High Court on Sunday, which said such a move could be an encroachment on privacy, respect and freedom of citizens. Senior advocate KK Rai said at an initial hearing at 10 am, Chief Justice Govind Mathur had made some strong remarks. "By pasting pictures like this, you are impinging on privacy, respect and freedom, and this appears to be an illegal move. Before the advocate general comes, it would be better if the government acts to rectify this," he quoted Justice Mathur as saying.
The court's move to take up the case suo motu yesterday was a rare one -- Sunday is a court holiday. During the one-hour hearing that took place later, at 3 pm, the court asked several questions, which were answered by government representatives. The court is expected to give its judgment on the matter today afternoon.
"The Advocate General appeared on behalf of the administration and put forth the government's views. After hearing him, the court reserved its orders, which will be delivered at 2 pm tomorrow (Monday)," Neeraj Tripathi, the state's Additional Advocate General, told reporters, who were not allowed in the court room during the proceedings.
The hoardings, carrying the addresses and photos of the accused, were put up at prominent intersections in Lucknow.
Those named were asked to pay for damage to public property during the protests in Lucknow, in which one person had died. The hoardings also say if the accused fails to pay up, their properties would be attached.
Individual property attachment notices to many of the accused have already been served by the government.
A listing put up on the Allahabad High Court's website under the tab of fresh cases on Saturday evening, lists the case and says it has been taken up by the Allahabad High Court suo motu, or "on its own".
The hoardings in Lucknow were put up on instructions of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a source in the Chief Minister's Office said on condition of anonymity.
On Friday, sources in the Chief Minister's Office sent an unsigned two-page note justifying the hoardings. They said they were put up keeping larger public interest in mind and after following all rules.
Among those named in the hoardings are activist-politician Sadaf Jafar, lawyer Mohammed Shoaib, theatre personality Deepak Kabir and former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer SR Darapuri.
All of them are out on bail and have said they will contest in court any move by the government to attach their property.
Calling the government's move unethical, Sadaf Jafar had told NDTV, "I'm not absconding... It's pathetic to put our names and addresses here."
"We were arrested, assaulted, sent to jail and then given bail. Now this is a new tactic to put pressure on us. I got a recovery notice while in jail. I sent a letter via the jail superintendent asking how I could plead my case when I was in jail. I got no reply. No one listened to me and then they sent me a recovery order," Deepak Kabir said.
"You know our addresses, we have the notice. Then why this? Is this to create fear? And if it is, then how can any government be called a good government?" he said.
After the violence in December, Mr Adityanath had courted controversy with his remarks of "badla" or revenge.
"We will be very strict. I am monitoring this myself. We will attach the property of all those involved in the violence and many such faces are being identified in videography and CCTVs. We will attach their property and take revenge against them," the Chief Minister had said.
Massive violence had broken out across Uttar Pradesh in December after protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act turned violent at many places. As part of the crackdown, thousands were arrested across the violence-hit districts in the state and charges of rioting and attempted murder were filed against them.
The police said at least 60 personnel were hit by bullets across the state while trying to control mobs. Questions have since been raised on the police action, including how the police in many areas appeared to have used excessive force.