No law to back state action on posters: SC to UP govt

No law to back state action: SC on anti-CAA 'name-and-shame' posters in Lucknow

People walk past a poster displaying photographs of those who have been identified to pay the compensation for vandalizing public properties during protests against CAA, in Lucknow. (Credit: PTI)

The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned the Uttar Pradesh government for putting out names, photographs and addresses of anti-CAA protesters prominently at public crossings in Lucknow, saying that the state cannot undertake an action not permitted by law.

A vacation bench of Justices U U Lalit and Aniruddha Bose ordered to place the state government's appeal against the Allahabad High Court's direction of March 9 to immediately remove the name-and-shame posters, before the Chief Justice of India for setting up a larger three-judge bench.

The bench, said, “Since the matter required further elaboration by a bench of sufficient strength, let the papers be placed before the CJI immediately, so that a bench may be constituted in coming week to hear and settle the controversy involved in the matter.”

Acting suo motu, the HC had, on Monday, directed removal the hoardings and sought a compliance report by March 16, stating that the move by the state government was “highly unjust” and amounted to “unwarranted invasion into privacy”.

Hearing the UP government's challenge to the directions, the top court said that the controversy in the matter required to be settled by a larger bench as Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the state government, contended the “unsocial elements and behaviours” which got reported by the media can't be protected under the right to privacy.

Mehta said the HC's division bench relied upon the right to privacy but here real crux was rather mixed.

“If people welding a gun gets photographed by the media, they can't claim right to privacy, it has been accepted in the K S Puttaswamy judgement (SC's right to privacy judgement). The names of the accused were already in the public domain,” he submitted.

The bench, however, said, “We are on a slightly different issue, if the pictures can be put out by the state.”

To this, Mehta said, it was a measure of deterrence. The liability of damages to public properties were fixed and the dues were to be recovered from them as per the order of the claim by the commissioner.

On this, the bench said, “There is a difference between individuals and the state. Individuals can do anything unless prohibited in law, but the state cannot do anything not permitted under the law.”

The bench also pointed out there is no law which can back the action by the UP government.

Mehta said, “We need an extraordinary remedy as a deterrent”.

The Solicitor General also cited a 2018 judgement from the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, which, the court said, has got “persuasive value”.

Senior advocates A M Singhvi, Colin Gonsalves, C U Singh and others, opposed the plea by the state, saying it was “the grossest form of violation of human rights”. They said putting out the names, photographs and addresses of the accused would “create the most incendiary atmosphere to lynch the people”.

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