New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday appointed senior advocate Sanjay Hegde as head of an outreach team that will talk to protesters at Shaheen Bagh and find a middle ground that neither impedes local movement nor violates their right to protest.
The team will also comprise senior advocate Sadhna Ramachandran and former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah.
Hegde is a high-profile lawyer who worked for a decade as advocate-on-record for the state of Karnataka. He is a prominent face on television debates, and is also a newspaper columnist.
In late 2019, he courted headlines for his run-ins with Twitter, which blocked his account twice within a week. The first time was when Hegde posted an iconic 1936 image of a man with his arms crossed in a sea of Nazi salutes — an image that is said to epitomise resistance against dictatorship. The second instance involved a retweet of the poem ‘Usko phaansi do (Hang him)’ by Hindi poet Goraph Pandey.
Hegde has now taken the matter to court where the government has argued that it had no role to play in this. His account, which had 98,000 followers, remains suspended.
A high-profile lawyer
Hegde completed law from Mumbai University in 1989 and started practising thereafter.
Since 2015, he has been one of the lead lawyers for the Ahmedabad-based NGO Centre for Social Justice in the Supreme Court, where the petitioner has demanded higher compensation for the 2002 Gujarat riots victims.
In 2016, he was appointed amicus curiae in the Supreme Court trial for the 16 December 2012 gang rape and murder case.
The next year, when the country witnessed many lynching incidents by self-styled cow vigilantes, Hegde appeared as lawyer for political observer Tehseen Poonawalla, who had filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking a ban on cow vigilante groups. The court had subsequently asked Parliament to bring a law against lynching.
As the Supreme Court Monday heard pleas about the alleged impediments caused by the Shaheen Bagh protest, Hegde was reportedly in court as an observer.
He was caught completely off-guard when the bench, comprising Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice K.M. Joseph, sought to know if he was interested in speaking to the protesters for a possible resolution.
“I have not been to the protest site and I don’t represent anyone. But if the courts ask me, I will certainly go,” he added.
In a statement issued to the press after his appointment, Hegde said, “My colleague Sadhana Ramachandran and I accept the responsibility placed upon us by the Supreme Court. We will be meeting all parties with a view to assisting them to resolve their issues in a manner that respects and safeguards both the right to protest and the requirements of orderly civic life.
“We hope that our assistance leads to these matters being resolved in good faith and to the satisfaction of all parties.”