Government not against right to protest: Chidambaram (Lead)

August 16th, 2011 - 8:14 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, Aug 16 (IANS) Social activist Anna Hazare was taken into custody for refusing to abide by conditions imposed by police regarding his proposed hunger strike, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said Monday, adding that the government was not against the peoples’ right to protest.

Addressing a joint press conference along with union ministers Kapil Sibal and Ambika Soni, Chidambaram said it was not a pleasant task to explain the circumstances of Hazare’s detention.

“None of us are happy trying to explain the circumstances. It is a painful duty. We are performing it with the seriousness it deserves,” Chidambaram said.

“We are not prohibiting a peaceful, democratic protest,” he said but there has to be reasonable set of conditions under which a protest can take place.

However, Chidambaram said it was decision of Delhi Police to detain Hazare and the government only laid down broad policy parameters.

“Police laid down conditions…we did not. If someone is aggrieved, legal remedies are available,” he said.

Sibal said restrictions on a protest depends on the place it is being held and conditions will be different in a place like central Delhi or the outskirts of the city like Burari.

Responding to queries, Chidambaram agreed that people felt angry if they have to pay bribes.

The minister said several legislations were planned by the government to fight corruption and bring more accountability in governance.

Chidambaram said India Against Corruption, which is spearheading the movement for a strong Lokpal bill, had been talking to Delhi Police about the venue of Hazare’s fast from Aug 2, but it did not agree to the conditions laid down by the police.

He said prohibitory orders under Section 144 was promulgated in the area around J.P. Park Monday.

He said Delhi Police officials met Hazare in the morning and he conveyed that he intended to proceed to J.P. Park in defiance of the orders.

The minister said the police detained him under Section 107 and Section 141 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The Delhi Police later clarified that Hazare had been detained under sections 107 and 151 of the CrPC.

Chidambaram said maintaining law and order in Delhi was an onerous task.

He said the government acknowledged the right to protest but that right is subject to conditions laid down by authorities charged with the duty to maintain law and order.

“If someone says we will defy the orders, I think this is unacceptable in a democracy…This government is not against democratic or peaceful protests,” he said. “Democratic or peaceful protests are a part of the right of a free citizen.”

Chidambaram said the Lokpal bill was before a standing committee after its introduction in the parliament. He said the government was trying to get the bill out of standing committee as early as possible.

Chidambaram said 34 of 40 principles of Team Hazare had been accepted by the government during talks for drafting the Lokpal bill, but added that insistence of the team that only their version of bill should prevail was not reasonable.

“In no way we can allow parliament’s right to (legislate law) be taken away. Someone says only this law will be passed..only my law will be accepted. Is that a reasonable way to move forward..is this the way democracy has to function,” he said.

Chidambaram added that he was ready to make a statement in parliament on the Hazare situation. “But they (opposition) did not want the statement.”

Soni said the government was as much against corruption as the civil society members but some reckless allegations have been made by Team Hazare.

She also took exception to appeals by Hazare supporters to join protest by taking leave from offices or to forego classes for some days and hoped government servants will not respond to such calls.

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