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Can’t issue blanket order against invoking NSA on anti-CAA protesters: SC

Can’t issue blanket order against invoking NSA on anti-CAA protesters: SC

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 24

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to issue blanket orders restraining authorities from invoking the National Security Act (NSA) against anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protesters in Delhi.

Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal had on January 10 had extended detaining powers to Delhi Police under the NSA for three months, beginning January 19. Some other states, including Andhra Pradesh, have also invoked the stringent law under which police can detain a person for 12 months without trial.

Protests have been taking place at various places in the country against the CAA and the National Population Register (NPR) exercise due to commence in April.

While noting that the NSA can’t be allowed to be misused, a Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said there can’t be a general order as public properties were being damaged during the protests.

It refused to entertain a petition filed by advocate ML Sharma challenging the imposition of NSA in few states, including the national capital. Sharma said anti-CAA protests were going on peacefully in Shaheen Bagh in Delhi and other places and states should not be allowed to invoke the stringent law against them. He also sought a compensation of Rs 50 lakh each for those detained under the NSA for “mental agony, defamation in society and loss of reputation”.

“We are of the opinion that general writ will not lie in this case. We cannot invoke powers under Article 32. We agree that the NSA should not be misused but there cannot be a general command…You show us a specific instance, where it has been done. We cannot issue a blanket order. If a general direction is passed, this will create a chaos. You don’t know what is going on in Calcutta, Tripura and Assam. Properties are being burnt and that may be (an) organized (act). We don’t know the antecedents of people,” the Bench said.

As Sharma insisted that peaceful protesters should not be booked under the NSA, the Bench said, “If a person is involved in violence and involved in say hundred criminal cases. Then what would government do. Will not the government act?” It asked Sharma to file an amended petition showing some specific instances where NSA has been invoked against the ant-CAA protestors.

The Bench, however, allowed him to file an intervention application in the pending cases challenging the validity of CAA and seek appropriate relief.

The petition termed the notification, allowing police to invoke NSA to detain persons, as “unconstitutional” and violative of fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.

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