The Delhi Police on Tuesday arrested Supreme Court advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and five others over inflammatory communal slogans raised at a protest held at Jantar Mantar on August 8.
Preet Singh, director of Save India Foundation who organized the event, was also one of the six who have been arrested.
To commemorate the 1942 Quit India Movement, SIF organized the 'Bharat Jodo Aandolan' event on August 8 seeking the abrogation of colonial-era laws. Upadhyay, a former Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Delhi unit spokesperson, was the key speaker there.
However, according to clips circulating on social media chants of "Ram, Ram" along with threats to kill Muslims were raised. "Hindustan mein rehna hoga jai shri ram kehna hoga (To stay in India, must say Jai Shri Ram)," the crowd was heard shouting.
A little less than 4 kilometers away, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that state governments cannot withdraw criminal cases filed against sitting lawmakers without prior approval from High Courts. The top court's ruling came on a 2015 PIL filed by Upadhyay, one of the more than 50 he has filed in the SC and the Delhi High Court over the years.
Who is Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay?
Upadhyay was a senior engineer with Maruti Suzuki when he quit his job to join the 2011-2012 Anna Hazare movement on anti-corruption that had captured the imagination of the residents living in the national capital. One of the founding members of the Aam Aadmi Party, which was born of the movement, he quit soon after to join the BJP.
Upadhyay took up law later in his life. He graduated from a law college in Uttar Pradesh and worked with advocates like Ram Jethmalani and Prashant Bhushan before going independent.
Upadhyay filed his first PIL in 2015 seeking a Uniform Civil Code. At the time on December 7, 2015, the bench led by then Chief Justice of India TS Thakur had refused to entertain the plea and warned Upadhyay not to waste the court's time. Upadhyay was directed to submit his representation before the Parliament instead.
This lack of success however did not deter Upadhyay whose "passion to file PILs" remained unabated.
A serial litigator, Upadhyay's PILs often echo the agenda set by the ruling party. Upadhyay has filed a range of public interest litigations which can be confused with the moniker of 'political interest litigations' according to this article in The Print.
In an interview with news portal Bar And Bench, Upadhyay had said that he filed his PILs as advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and not a BJP Spokesperson. "I am not a politician, even though I was one of the founding members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)," he had said.
PILs to weed out corruption in Politics, on Kashmir, and Yoga
Unlike ML Sharma, another serial litigator who has been known to file PILs based on sensational headlines, Upadhyay's PILs have a bit more gravitas to them. However, many advocates have wondered over the origins of his plea considering almost all of them mirror the political sentiments of the BJP.
Before the Centre abrogated Articles 370 which gave special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and split it into two union territories, and Article 35A, which barred non-locals (including local women who married non-locals) from purchasing property in J&K the former engineer had filed pleas in the Supreme Court seeking the same. He has also filed plea seeking to declare the Constitution and Flag of the J&K invalid and void; directions to declare polygamy, Nikah-Halala, Nikah-Mutah, Nikah-Misyar and Sharia Court as invalid and void.
In August 2017, the top court had struck down the practice of instant triple talaq. Upadhyay was one of the litigants who had sought for the same.
The above-mentioned matters were all flagship issues propounded by the BJP.
Other ideas that are seemingly borrowed from the BJP's manifesto include pleas seeking a ban on "deceitful religious conversions"; making yoga compulsory in schools for children between 6-14 years old; compulsory singing of the national anthem and Vande Mataram in schools; make Hindi compulsory in schools; eradication of black magic and superstition; the deportation of illegal immigrants including Bangladeshis and Rohingyas within the year and make illegal immigration a cognizable offense.
Upadhyay's plea seeking to link documents of movable and immovable property with Aadhar to check black money and benami transactions is another leaf from the BJP playbook. He has also filed five pleas uniformity in civil laws on five aspects — age of marriage, divorce, succession, maintenance, and adoption.
Upadhyay's PILs have had several hits and misses. Even though he has been chastised on occasions for wasting the court's time, several of his pleas have hit the mark. In 2018, Upadhyay was chastised again for filing meaningless PILs and was warned that he would be barred from filing PILs in the future. "Just because we have heard some matters of this gentleman, three PILs are filed every day and all regarding elections. Three PILs are coming tomorrow and one was mentioned today," then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had said.
However, earlier this year one of his pleas hit the mark when on March 10, the Supreme Court issued notice on a plea seeking uniform laws to govern succession and inheritance matters. The bench led by then Chief Justice of India SA Bobde has sought a reply from the Centre and tagged the matter with another plea filed by the same advocate on uniform laws for divorce and maintenance.
In 2018, the top court had agreed to examine Muslim personal laws related to polygamy, nikah halala. Upadhyay's plea succeeded even as petitions filed by Muslim women were rejected.
Also Read: Explained: What is the Uniform Civil Code?
Updated On: 2021-08-10T18:46:17+05:30