The Supreme Court Monday took up the issue of an infant dying on returning home from Shaheen Bagh where his parents had taken him along to the ongoing protests against the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA).
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde took strong exception to some of the lawyers opposing the court’s taking suo motu (on its own) cognisance of the matter.
“Can a 4-month-old child be taking part in such protests,” the bench asked women lawyers appearing in the matter.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said it was not correct that minors like the 4-month infant should be taken to the protest site.
The apex court took suo motu cognisance of the matter following a letter written to it by a national bravery award winner Zen Gunratan Sadavarte, who said that minors be barred from participating in any type of protest and agitation.
The top court issued notices to the Centre and the Delhi government seeking their responses on the issue.
The bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, expressed anguish over the two women lawyers who made a statement that children who participated in the protests have been dubbed as ‘Pakistani’ and ‘anti-nationals’ in their schools.
“We do not want people to use this platform to further create problems,” the bench said, expressing unhappiness that the lawyers were deviating from the main issue it taken cognisance of.
“We are not considering either CAA or NRC. We are not considering the abuses like Pakistani hurled in schools, the bench said.
The bench made it clear that it was not stifling anybody’s voice.
“We are not stifling any voice. This is a properly constituted suo motu proceedings by the Supreme Court of India,” the bench said.
The two women lawyers said they were seeking intervention on behalf of journalist and activist John Dayal and a woman who is the mother of two children.
The 4-month-old baby had passed away in his sleep on the night of January 30 after returning from Shaheen Bagh where his parents had taken him during the anti-CAA protest.
The petitioner, a recipient of the 2019 Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW) National Bravery Award, said in the letter to the CJI’s office that the parents of the baby and the organisers of the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh had “failed” to protect the rights of the kid, resulting in his death.
Sadavarte, a student of Class 7 from Mumbai, has alleged that the protesters at Shaheen Bagh include infants and children, who are exposed to conditions unfavourable to them, which is violation of their rights.
“The Shaheen Bagh protesters at New Delhi, include women, senior citizens, newborns and children, ignoring the fact that new born babies need a lot of attention and care as they cannot express their pains in particulars thereafter also ignoring the conditions unfavourable to the children, they are brought to the protest place which is violative of their child rights and natural justice,” the letter said.
It also alleged that the police failed in stopping children from participating in such agitations harmful to their health.
It expressed surprise over the fact that even the death certificate of the 4-month-old does not mention the cause of death.