The question following the Supreme Court's directive over the Shaheen Bagh protests blocking roads is whether appointing an interlocutor would be of any help. The principal protests against the citizenship law at Shaheen Bagh have been on for three months now. While the Court's visibly asserted its apprehension of the roadblock, it did not shy away from upholding the right to protest as fundamental. Still, the February 17 hearing does little to resolve the matter. The intervening application contending deliberate closure of alternative routes to disrupt traffic has been filed but was not taken into account. In appointing an interlocutor, the Court intends to reason out protestors into a new site. The intention is correct but perhaps even the Court could have taken the upcoming Constitutional Bench hearing of the CAA into account. After all, it is the citizenship law itself that is the reason for public stir. Interlocutor reasoning or authority action were the only two solutions that could be derived from the Monday hearing. Interlocutor reasoning may lead to some derivable course of action considering the fact that even the protestors are likely to acknowledge the traffic caused due to blocked roads. Yet, the most-likely reasoning that can come up is the fact that an alternative route that has been blocked — and where the protest is not happening — should be opened to allow traffic flow. If it comes to that, the whole point of appointing an interlocutor gets defeated. The Court should have taken that into account and discussed the same with the Delhi Police — who would know better about the traffic and blockade. A workable solution could have been worked out to be implemented on an interim basis, or at least the main hearing on the subject happens on February 22. Alternate protest site should have ideally come up as an argument following failure in crafting an alternative route.
If the Court acknowledges protest as fundamental, it ought to do more than ask protestors to shift their protest to a different and relatively inconvenient site. If there is agitation, the immediate object is to address the underlying concern. If that concern can't be addressed immediately due to legal procedure, managing traffic is the next step. Since the protest site falls in a crucial spot that is instrumental for arterial traffic to cross, there is more reason to work out an alternative route. Shifting the protest to any other site may still be inconvenient unless it happens in a closed stadium where it does not hold as much importance.
(Image from hindustantimes.com)