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Right to protest fundamental right, but blocking road a concern: Supreme Court

Solicitor General contended before the court that the protesters can’t continue blocking roads on grounds of not getting an alternative site. To this, the court replied: “It is a fundamental right of the people to protest and people can protest.”

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New Delhi, Feb 17: The Supreme Court on Monday said that right to protest is a fundamental right, but it is troubling to see protesters blocking the road at Shaheen Bagh, as it may set a bad precedent and spur action by other groups resulting in chaos. It also suggested that the Shaheen Bagh protest may be shifted to an alternate venue.

The top court appointed three interlocutors led by senior advocate Sanjay Hegde to talk to the Shaheen Bagh protesters regarding shifting the protest site and file a report in the court. Senior advocate Sadhna Ramachandran and former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah are the other two interlocutors.

A bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice K.M. Joseph, citing replication of protests involving blocking of public roads, said: “We are concerned as to what will happen if people start hitting the streets and blocking the roads while protesting.”

“Reasons must prevail upon them, as we are concerned about the blocking of the road,” it added.

The court suggested that Delhi Police may offer an alternative site to the protesters at Shaheen Bagh.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta contended before the court that the protesters can’t continue blocking roads on grounds of not getting an alternative site. To this, the court replied: “It is a fundamental right of the people to protest and people can protest.”

Mehta also contended that the message that every institution has been kneeling and praying to the protesters should not go out. Justice Joseph queried Mehta, “Then why did the Centre not take steps before this matter was brought before the top court. Why didn’t you act in the last 68 days?”

“For some reasons, you have not gone there. If nothing works out, we will leave it to you,” the bench told Mehta, who insisted that talks were held with welfare and market associations to lift restrictions on the road.

The observation from the apex court came while hearing the petitions filed by advocate Amit Sahni and BJP leader Nand Kishore Garg, seeking the removal of the protesters to end the road blockade.

The court said the protesters are aggrieved by a particular legislation (Citizenship Amendment Act). The challenge to this Act is pending before the top court.

“They may get favourable or unfavourable judgement… Our intrinsic concern is if everybody starts blocking roads or public areas, the question is where to protest. It should not happen on the streets. If another section occupies another road, that is the issue,” the court observed.

The top court said this may lead to chaos. “People may have strong views. The thing troubling us is blocking of the road,” said the court.

Mehta also submitted that protesters are using women and children at the protest site as a shield.

The court named Hegde to act as an interlocutor and asked him to seek assistance from former Habibullah and Ramachandran. Habibullah, along with Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad, has filed an intervention application on the matter.

The court also observed that the authorities should favourably consider this aspect of the right to protest. The top court put the petitions seeking direction to Delhi Police to remove the road blockade at Shaheen Bagh for further consideration on February 24.

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Covid cases rising, but situation under control: Kejriwal

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Arvind Kejriwal

New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday said while the coronavirus cases are increasing in the city, the situation is under control.

Kejriwal said there were about 4,000 covid beds with the government, of these only 1,500 were occupied.

“In Private hospitals, 677 beds are available of which 509 are occupied,” Kejriwal said.

In the private hospitals, about 2,000 beds are being made covid dedicated from Monday, he said.

“COVID-19 cases have increased in Delhi due to relaxation in lockdown. But there is nothing to worry about unless the mortality rate or the number of serious cases rises rapidly. If people contract the virus and recover, then there is nothing to worry about,” he said.

Assuring that there will be more beds in the coming days, he said the situation is under control. “The cases were expected to increase after the lockdown was relaxed. However, I can say the situation is under control.”

He said about 6,500 people are infected with the virus, and an equal number have recovered till date.

Kejriwal also said there are 250 ventilators with the government and only 11 are being used.

Also, he said no hospital can ask patients to arrange for themselves or can ask them to go. “We have issued a show-cause notice to a private hospital that denied treatment to a patient who tested positive for coronavirus. It is the hospital’s duty in such a situation to provide an ambulance to the patients and take them to a COVID hospital. Patients cannot be told to make arrangements for themselves,” he said.

On May 17, the Chief Minister said, there were 9,755 cases. “Now about 3,500 patients have increased. Also, 2,500 cases have recovered in the same period.”

He also said that most of the new cases are having mild or no symptoms. “At least 3,424 patients are being treated at their home as they have no or mild symptoms,” he added.

Delhi’s covid cases count reached 13,418 on Sunday.

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India

2 terrorists killed in Kashmir encounter: Police

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Jammu and Kashmir Shopian Indian Army

Srinagar, May 25 (IANS) Two terrorists were killed in an encounter with security forces at Damhal Hanjipora in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district early Monday morning, police said.

Kashmir Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar told IANS that the encounter began when a Cordon and Search Operation was launched by a joint team of police and Army following specific inputs about the presence of terrorists in the area.

During the search operation, the terrorists fired at the security forces. After a brief exchange of fire, both terrorists were gunned down, he said.

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Kovind, Modi, Rahul greet people on Eid

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Ram Nath Kovind

New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday greeted people on Eid-ul-Fitr.

The President tweeted: “Eid Mubarak! This festival is an expression of love, fraternity, peace, and harmony. Eid reaffirms our belief in sharing with and caring for the vulnerable and needy. Let us carry the spirit of giving (zakaat) on this Eid and follow social distancing norms to contain coronavirus spread.”

The Prime Minister said that the special occasion furthers the spirit of compassion.

“Eid Mubarak! Greetings on Eid-ul-Fitr. May this special occasion further the spirit of compassion, brotherhood and harmony. May everyone be healthy and prosperous,” Modi tweeted.

Rahul Gandhi also took to Twitter: “Eid Mubarak to each and every one of you.”

Eid is being celebrated in most part of the country on Monday, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

On Sunday, prominent Muslim clerics in Delhi had appealed to people to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr on Monday while adhering to social distancing and lockdown norms in view of the coronavirus outbreak.

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