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No law to back your action: SC on 'name and shame' posters in UP, refers matter to larger bench

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday told the Uttar Pradesh government that there is "no law" which backs its action of putting up posters on roadsides with details of those accused of vandalism during anti-CAA protests in Lucknow.

The Apex Court, while referring the appeal of the state government to a larger three-judge bench next week on the ground that it required "further elaboration and consideration", put a poser saying whether the fundamental right to privacy of alleged protesters can be waived by the state by "castigating them for all times" to come.

A vacation bench of justices U U Lalit and Aniruddha Bose did not stay the Allahabad High Court's March 9 order asking the Lucknow administration to remove the posters.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state, also did not press for the stay of the order.

"As of now, there is no law which backs your (state) action. The action of state has to be backed by some law," the bench said.

"We direct that let the papers be placed before Chief Justice of India S A Bobde so that a bench of sufficient strength considers the matter in the coming week," it said.

The top court, however, said it understood the "anxiety" of the state government and there was "no doubt" that the rioters should be punished and told to compensate the damages.

It said though there is no doubt that there should not be any kind of vandalism and the accused should be booked, the question is "can the state go two stages beyond that" and decide to name and shame the protesters.

The law officer said once a person decides to put himself in the public domain, like by wielding a gun, then he cannot come and say that he has the right to privacy and media should be restrained from publicising him.

"If your unruly behaviour is video-graphed, then you have put yourself in public glare. But here, we are on a slightly different footing and the issue is can the state waive off the privacy rights of persons to castigate them for all times," the bench observed.

It said there is a difference between the rights of an individual and those of the state, which must be backed by law.

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