“The mettle of the judiciary is tested in such critical times. On many occasions, including in the recent past, the judiciary has faced such challenges and emerged with distinction as the custodian of the rights of the people,” the representation said.
Some recent examples are the suo motu actions taken by the Supreme Court in the migrant workers matter and in the Pegasus matter. “In the same spirit, and in its role as custodian of the Constitution, we therefore urge the Supreme Court to take immediate suo motu action to arrest the deteriorating law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh, specifically involving the high-handedness of the police and state authorities, and the brutal clampdown on the fundamental rights of citizens,” it added.
The representation was signed by former Supreme Court judges Justice B Sudarshan Reddy, Justice V Gopala Gowda, Justice A K Ganguly, former Chief Justice of the Delhi high court Justice A P Shah, former judge of the Madras high court Justice K Chandru, former judge of the Karnataka high court Justice Mohammed Anwar, senior advocates Shanti Bhushan, Indira Jaisingh, Chander Uday Singh, Sriram Panchu and Anand Grover and advocate Prashant Bhushan.
“This letter petition is being presented as an urgent appeal to the Supreme Court of India to take suo motu cognizance of the recent incidents of violence and repression by state authorities on citizens in Uttar Pradesh. Recent remarks made by certain BJP spokespersons (since suspended from office) on Prophet Mohammed have resulted in protests in multiple parts of the country, and particularly in UP,” the petition said.
Instead of giving protesters an opportunity of being heard and engaging in peaceful protests, the UP state administration appears to have sanctioned taking violent action against such individuals, it added.
“The chief minister has reportedly officially exhorted officials to take such action against those guilty that it sets an example so that no one commits a crime or takes law into their hands in future,” they said.
He has further directed that the National Security Act, 1980, and the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986, be invoked against those found guilty of unlawful protests. It is these remarks that have emboldened the police to brutally and unlawfully torture protestors, they pointed out.
Noting that the UP police have arrested more than 300 people and registered FIRs against protesting citizens, they said, “Videos of young men in police custody being beaten with lathis, houses of protesters being demolished without notice or any cause of action, and protesters from the minority Muslim community being chased and beaten by the police, are circulating in social media, shaking the conscience of the nation.”
Such a brutal clampdown by a ruling administration was an unacceptable subversion of the rule of law and violation of the rights of citizens and made a mockery of the Constitution and fundamental rights guaranteed by the state, they added.
The coordinated manner in which the police and development authorities have acted led to the clear conclusion that demolitions were a form of collective extra judicial punishment, attributable to a state policy which was illegal, they said.