Hoardings by Uttar Pradesh Government: The Constitutional Angle

General Background

The Indian Parliament recently passed a new legislation “The Citizenship Amendment Act 2019” (CAA) through which religiously persecuted minorities from three countries namely Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who have come to India before 31st December 2014 will get ‘easy’ citizenship.

The chaos started when some leaders in the opposition linked CAA with National Register of Citizens (NRC) and confused the common men. The Muslim community thought that they will have to prove their citizenship by showing some sort of documents and if they are unable to show the documents they will be thrown out of the country.

This amendment particularly does not touch any Indian; it is for the communities who have come to India because of religious persecution and living here for years without any dignity. Nobody from any community will be denied citizenship provided they fulfil the basic requirements to get the same.

Specific Background: The hoardings by the UP police.

Amidst the confusion, people started protesting against this legislation across the country. Some group became violent and vandalized the public and private properties. State of Uttar Pradesh (U.P) was no exception. The U.P government led by Mr Yogi Adityanath came up with an announcement that the protestors who are engaged in vandalizing the public and private properties would be penalized and they will have to compensate for the damages, and if they do not pay, their property would be seized and auctioned.

Videography and photography were done to create the shreds of evidence against the infringing elements. Only after a few days, the U.P government announced the name of such persons and also the amount they have to pay as compensation. Notices were sent to their houses and they were also told that if they do not pay the amount in due time their personal properties would be seized.

In light of the above development, the government installed banners highlighting the names, addresses and photos of alleged infringe elements. The government was criticized for this act and allegations were made that this act is in breach of the privacy of the individuals under the right to life and personal liberty which is a fundamental right as mentioned in the case  K.S Puttaswamy v. Union of India {(2015) 8 SCC 735}.

Significance of this development

The government is contending that all these developments took place to maintain the law and order and to control the damages being caused to public properties in the state. In any democracy, the dissent helps the government to perform better. Citizens living in a democratic country should and must have the right to dissent and protest peacefully.

William Faulkner said that “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Ramesh Sinha of Allahabad High Court (HC) on March 08, 2020, took a suo moto cognizance against this act of the state and ordered to remove the banners immediately. After the order of the HC, the state went to Supreme Court in the appeal.

Privacy as a constitutional right.

The right to privacy refers to the concept that one’s personal information is protected from public scrutiny. The law does not determine what privacy is, but only what situations of privacy will be afforded legal protection. {Hyman Gross, “The concept of Privacy”}.

The right to privacy, although oddly missing from the constitution of India, derives its undefined foundation from the right to life, and personal rights as enshrined in Article 21. The right to privacy in India has been developed through a series of judgments.

In the case of M.P Sharma v. Satish Chandra {1954 SCR 1077}. The bench stated in this case that the drafters of the Constitution did not intend to limit a constitutional right to privacy to the authority to search and seize. They argued that the Indian Constitution does not include any language similar to the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, and therefore, questioned the existence of a protected right to privacy.

However, in 1963 the right to privacy found its roots in Art. 21. In case of Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh {AIR 1963 SC 1295} the Apex Court held that “nothing is more deleterious to a man’s physical happiness and health than a calculated interference with his privacy. Further, the recent landmark development in this right has been observed in Aadhar judgment. {K.S Puttaswamy case}.

How were the hoardings in violation of this right?

The Allahabad High court in the suo moto cognizance said that the hoardings by the U.P government exposes the details of the individuals to the public at large and hence the personal information of an individual is not protected from public scrutiny and therefore it violates the right to privacy the intrinsic part of Right to life and personal liberty.

The matter is now in the apex court where a vacation bench said that there exists no law to back the Name and Shame posters, the bench also said that the case should be immediately placed before a larger bench led by CJI Bodbe.


Due to the Corona pandemic, the Supreme Court has said that it will listen only to very important matters, only the time will tell whether the Apex court considers this matter as a very important one or not. In between all these developments, the UP government came up with an ordinance to give the legal sanction to Name and Shame posters.

The last date for the payment of the due amount will be ending very soon, Corona has taken its entry in the game and has made the functioning of every machinery slow,  it will be very interesting to see the race between the legislature and Judiciary in this situation.

Fines can be imposed under section 147 of the Indian Penal Code, as well as under the Prevention of Damage to Public Properties Act, 1984. These are penal provisions, and for penal offences, a trial as laid down in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) must be held before imposing any penalty on the accused.

These steps by the state government have been taken to control the situation during anti CAA protests. After this announcement, the violent protests have become negligible. People have stopped vandalizing the public and private property. Peaceful protests are still going on.

On a personal note, I also feel that the Fundamental rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution provides us with the freedom to protest, to raise the voice against the majority but it nowhere gives the right to vandalize the properties, create chaos in the society. No one should be allowed to do that in any situation.

As the famous jurist, Salmond said that “No right exist without the corresponding duty”, our Constitution guarantees us rights but it also mentions some duties which should be fulfilled by everyone.


Nitish Dubey


Nitish Dubey is a student of first-year BA LLB (Hons) at Hidayatullah National Law University. He has a keen interest in Constitutional and Criminal Law.

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