[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Supreme Court in its order dated December 17, put on record the statement made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that “no students have been placed under arrest so far and only three students have been injured and they are receiving medical attention. Two of them are being treated at Aligarh Muslim University Medical College and one is being treated at Safdarjung Hospital Delhi”.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and Justices Surya Kant and B R Gavai, after hearing the “hotly contested” arguments on Tuesday, directed the petitioners to approach the High Courts within whose jurisdiction the incidents of violence occurred against the students who were protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The court said that “Having regard to the nature of the matter; the nature of the disputes and the vast areas over which these incidents are said to have occurred, we find that it might not be feasible to appoint a Single Committee to go into matters in different States. It would entail collection of evidence from various States”.
“We are confident that the Chief Justices of the concerned High Courts”, the apex court asserted.
The court has also given the following directions:
- Chief Justices of the concerned High Courts, if found appropriate, shall consider appointing appropriate Committees, comprising former Judges of the Supreme Court or the High Court.
- High Courts would be at liberty to pass appropriate orders in regard to “arrests” and “medical treatment” if brought to their notices and after proper verification.
- High Courts would also look into all the aspects of the serious grievances that the Vice Chancellors have been ignored by the police while taking action against the students.
Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, who was representing a petition jointly filed by a group of students and alumni of AMU and Jamia, said that “FIRs are being registered against the students one after the other. Let the law take its course. If you want peace, like Your Lordship said yesterday, you cannot have hundreds and thousands of FIRs, arrest students and throw them into the prison”.
“Only in AMU and Jamia, not all.. over the country…what should the police do? If someone has broken the law, if stone is being thrown? You may be innocent or guilty, but if the police think you are guilty, an FIR is to be registered…”, CJI Bobde responded to Ms Jaising.
Ms Jaising further pressed and asked, “(But) how will they come and give evidence if they are locked up in jail? Lawyers are also caught up in seeking bail for them… Some have lost arms and legs”.
Here, Ms Jaising mentioned that Mr (Colin) Gonsalves will inform the court about his intern who lost his eyesight. “This court has held that humanitarian medical aid has to be provided free of cost. Even by private hospitals. Even to criminals…”, argued Ms Jaising.
“At the end of the day, we are looking for a resolution. That cannot be done if FIRs are filed. How will students sitting in jails help? Ms Jaising pressed.
She asked the court, “Universities are private places. How could police enter university grounds without permission? and When the university is shut down prior to the scheduled holidays, where should the students go? Sleep on the streets in the dead of the winter? Go home overnight? Please intervene and send a message to the country”.
Advocate Mehmood Pracha submitted before the court that “There is widespread discontent regarding the CAA all over the country. It is being tainted as anti-muslim. The first protests came from the north-east, the indigenous people don’t trust the Act… Then, the Muslims. First, from the AMU, then Jamia, from students who are out guiding lights. Seige was laid …”.
He further contended that there is a commonality in the protests, “If you do not intervene, things may snowball”.
Then, CJI Bobde said, “That is a law and order problem… We are not an institution which is into maintaining law and order. We are not telling this is not serious, we are only asking you to get the facts determined first”.
“Peace needs to be brought to Aligarh instantly. Please send a retired judge to Aligarh for fact-finding … peace will come… once they know, an investigation is on, all torture will stop …”, prayed senior advocate Colin Gonsalves.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde reiterated for a one-point agency and argued that “in the Mandal Commission order, this court said those are our children who are burning there… bring them back”. He further contended before the court that “even if the High courts have to be taken recourse to, then the police be mandated to seek the permission of the Vice-Chancellor before entering any university… and if the police arrest any student or any person claiming to be a student, the Vice-Chancellor be informed about it”.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before the court that “No student is arrested. None are in jail. They were never in Jail. The Joint Commissioners of Police are here, even of the Aligarh range. They know their responsibility, that they are before the highest court of the country… The students were given medical aid free of cost. The Proctor of the Jamia Millia Islamia was called to identify the students. He came within two hours, gave in writing that they are his students and took them along”.
CJI Bobde said we are putting this on record that there have been no arrests. He said, “We will record the statement that there have been no arrests. But we do not gang to allow criminal offences. If there are illegal activities, the police can make arrests”.
Violence against students
In the late evening of December 15, the police and security forces in order to quell the students protest against the CAA, had entered the campuses of AMU and Jamia and lobbed tear gas shells. As a result of the lathi-charge, many students were injured and admitted to hospitals.
Both the universities, AMU and Jamia, amid protests and violence against the students have shut down their campus’ and asked the students to vacate the hostels prior to the scheduled break.