New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Tuesday said the police has the power to control traffic wherever protests are going on and directed it to look into a plea against restrictions on Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch which has been closed for a month due to agitations against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said however that no direction can be issued by the court on how to handle an agitation or the place of protest and the traffic as it depends on the ground reality and the wisdom of police.
The court asked the police to look into the issue of traffic restrictions while also keeping in mind that law and order is maintained. The court passed the order while disposing of a PIL filed by advocate and social activist Amit Sahni seeking a direction to the Delhi Police Commissioner to lift restrictions on Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch and Okhla underpass, which were closed on December 15, 2019 for ongoing protests against CAA and National Register of Citizen (NRC).
It was a temporary measure but has been extended from time to time. The Kalindi Kunj stretch is vital as it connects Delhi, Faridabad (Haryana) and Noida (Uttar Pradesh) and commuters are forced to take the Delhi-Noida-Delhi (DND) Expressway and Ashram, which is causing hours of traffic jams and wastage of time and fuel, the plea said.
The court said: “We hereby direct the concerned respondent authorities (police) to look into the grievances ventilated by the petitioner in this writ petition… about the restrictions on usage of the road which is known as Kalindi Kunj- Shaheen Bagh Stretch, that is, Road No.13 A (between Mathura Road and Kalindi Kunj) as well as Okhla underpass, and will react in accordance with law, rules, regulations and the government policies applicable to the facts of the present case.”
It further said the authorities should keep in mind the “larger public interest” and also the maintenance of “law and order”. The bench said it ought to be kept in mind that whenever any agitation or protest is going on, situation is like fluid, it keeps on changing looking to the temperament of the protestors and resistances by other people.
“Simultaneously, police has to maintain the law and order. Hence, the respondents have all power, jurisdiction and authority to control the traffic, wherever protests or agitations are going on, in the larger public interest. “In such a situation, no specific writ, order or direction can be issued by this court as to how to handle the agitation or protest or the place of protest and the traffic. It all depends upon the ground reality and the wisdom of the police, where situation may keep on changing every 10 minutes,” the bench said.
The court refused however to direct the authorities to look into the issue in a time bound manner. During the hearing, Sahni said the road closure is causing huge inconvenience to lakhs of commuters everyday and they are compelled to take different routes for last one month. He said children, who take that route, are compelled to leave home two hours prior to school timing.
The petition claimed that the authorities have failed to take appropriate action to give relief to the residents of the locality and lakhs of commuters of Delhi, UP and Haryana. It said the petitioner has given representation to the authorities on January 3 but no action has been taken till date.
Besides Delhi Police, the plea had made the Centre and the Delhi government as parties, seeking from them requisite assistance to the police in addressing the issue. Due to the heavy traffic on alternative routes, it takes 15-20 minutes for people to cross just one traffic signal at Ashram, it said.
Citing several news reports, it said that on an average, Ashram Chowk is used by around 30,000 vehicles every day. With the Kalindi Kunj road closure, an additional 1 lakh vehicles are flowing through the intersection.
The high court, on January 10, had refused to entertain an application, in the form of letter, seeking directions for removal of demonstrators protesting the CAA at Shaheen Bagh here in order to clear road blockages that are causing traffic congestions at the DND route.