Accusing the Uttar Pradesh administration of “making a mockery of the Constitution”, three former Supreme Court judges are among 12 prominent persons who have urged the court to react to the “violence and repression by state authorities against Muslim citizens” protesting over BJP representatives’ remarks on Prophet Muhammad.
Their letter to the court specifically terms the bulldozing of houses of protesters “an unacceptable subversion of the rule of law”, and requests the court to take suo motu cognizance. Besides former Supreme Court judges B Sudarshan Reddy, V Gopala Gowda and AK Ganguly, the June 14 letter is signed by three former High Court judges and six lawyers.
The Prayagraj Development Authority had on Sunday bulldozed the home of Javed Ahmad, alleged to have been involved in the June 10 violent protests triggered by now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s controversial remarks on the Prophet. The allegedly illegal properties of two persons accused of rioting were bulldozed in Saharanpur too.
“The coordinated manner in which the police and development authorities have acted lead(s) to the clear conclusion that demolitions are a form of collective extra-judicial punishment,” the letter reads.
The Uttar Pradesh Police has arrested 333 people from eight districts and registered 13 FIRs for the June 10 protests.
“Videos of young men in police custody being beaten with lathis, houses of protestors being demolished without notice or any cause of action, and protestors from the minority Muslim community being chased and beaten by the police, are circulating on social media, shaking the conscience of the nation,” reads the letter.
It says that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s reported statements sanctioning action that “sets an example” further emboldened the police “to torture protesters”.
“The mettle of the judiciary is tested in such critical times,” the letter tells the Supreme Court. Saying that the judiciary has in the past “emerged with distinction as the custodian of the rights of the people”, the letter cites examples of suo motu action by the Supreme Court, such as when migrant workers were forced to walk home during the 2020 Covid lockdown and the Pegasus spyware matter.
Signatories include Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and former chairperson of the Law Commission of India; Justice K Chandru, who served the Madras High Court, and Justice Mohammed Anwar, who served the Karnataka High Court.
Six senior lawyers are also part of the appeal – former law minister Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Indira Jaising, Chander Uday Singh, Sriram Panchu and Anand Grover.