Reference to larger Bench was made by the two judge bench of the Supreme Court in matter of Appeal against Allahabad High Court’s decision in the case of hoarding of protester

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In the present case, the Supreme court through the bench of two judges, while hearing an appeal preferred by State of UP against the decision of the High Court of Judicature of Allahabad, held that the matter should be decided by the bench of three judges.

Background:

On 5th March 9, 2020, government in Uttar Pradesh had put up hoardings with the photos and home addresses of those who are accused for the violence during the anti-CAA protests at strategic traffic points in the capital city, with an intention to issue notices worth thousands of crores on those it blames for the violence.[1]

Brief facts:

State of Uttar Pradesh preferred appeal to the Supreme Court against an judgment of the Allahabad High Court, on 9th march 2020,  in the matter of In-Re Banners Placed On Road Side In The City Of Lucknow v. State of U.P.[2] The Chief Justice of The Allahabad High Court, Justice Govind Mathur, took suo motu cognizance of the hoardings and directed the Lucknow police commissioner Sujit Pandey and district magistrate Abhishek Prakash to appear in the court and explain the law under which the hoardings of 53 anti-CAA protesters were erected at the major intersections in the state capital.  Allahabad High Court on 8th March 2020 observed that putting up hoardings by the Uttar Pradesh government featuring names with photographs of those accused of violence during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is a violation of the privacy of a person.[3]

The court held that the most of the directions issued under para 181 of the judgment aforesaid would have no application in the instant matter being arising out of a suo motu action taken by the Court. The bench further held that,

 “ Where there is gross negligence on part of public authorities and government, where the law is disobeyed and the public is put to suffering and where the precious values of the constitution are subjected to injuries, a constitutional court can very well take notice of that at its own. The Court in such matters is not required to wait necessarily for a person to come before it to ring the bell of justice.”

The  High court opined it is infringement of privacy and violation of article 21 of the constitution of India. Accordingly, the District Magistrate, Lucknow and the Commissioner of Police, Lucknow Commissioner at, Lucknow were directed to remove the banners from the road side and State of Uttar Pradesh is directed not to place such banners on road side containing personal data of individuals without having authority of law.[4] The appeal was put forth before two judge bench of Supreme Court comprising Justices U U Lalit and Justice Aniruddha Bose[5], which was heard by the Supreme Court on 12th March 2020.

Arguments Advanced

Arguments of Appellant:

  • The counsel of appellant learned Solicitor General relied upon the decision of the Supreme Court of United Kingdom in the matter of an application by JR38 for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland)[6], and particularly paragraphs 2, 3 and 73 of the decision. Further reliance was placed on the text of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
  • It was further submitted that the action taken by the State in the instant case was fully justified, reliance was placed on Puttaswamy decision and submitted that there was implied waiver of right to privacy once a person is in public domain.

Arguments of respondent:

  • It was submitted by the respondent that the State as an authority could not indulge in naming and printing the pictures of individuals as it did and that the decision of this Court in K.S. Puttaswamy (supra) would completely conclude the issue.
  • It was argued that the action of government amounted to an “appeal for lynching” and further it was submitted that even the names of child rapists and serious criminals were not published.[7]

Decision of the Court:

The Supreme Court through the bench of two judges comprising Justices U U Lalit and Aniruddha Bose held that

“The matter be placed before a Bench of at least Three Judges as early as possible and preferably in the, week commencing 16th March 2020. Liberty is granted to those individuals whose names and pictures appeared in the hoardings to implead themselves in the present proceedings.”

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference

[1] https://thewire.in/law/allahabad-hc-takes-cognisance-of-hoardings-with-names-photos-of-anti-caa-protesters

[2]  https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/pdf_upload-371078.pdf

[3] http://lawtimesjournal.in/from-suo-moto-cognizance-to-order-of-removal-of-banner-by-stating-it-violates-privacy-of-people-under-article-21-of-the-constitution-allahabad-hc/

[4] http://lawtimesjournal.in/from-suo-moto-cognizance-to-order-of-removal-of-banner-by-stating-it-violates-privacy-of-people-under-article-21-of-the-constitution-allahabad-hc/

[5] https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/sc-refers-to-larger-bench-up-govts-appeal-against-allahabad-hc-order-for-removal-of-name-shame-banners-153737

[6] (2015) UKSC 42

[7] https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/sc-refers-to-larger-bench-up-govts-appeal-against-allahabad-hc-order-for-removal-of-name-shame-banners-153737