Home minister justifies Hazare’s arrest (Lead)

August 17th, 2011 - 9:24 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) Strongly defending the arrest of Anna Hazare, Home Minister P. Chidambaram Wednesday said the social activist was taken into custody to prevent him from violating prohibitory orders imposed ahead of his indefinite mass hunger strike. He also said that the police acted “on their best judgement” with no government interference.

Chidambaram said Hazare was picked up from his residence at Mayur Vihar Tuesday morning in “preventive detention”.

The minister was replying to a day-long debate in the Lok Sabha with opposition MPs criticising the government for curbing Hazare’s right to protest by invoking prohibitory orders under section 144 - that prevents the gathering of five or more people - at the protest venue.

“It is not the first time section 144 was imposed. We all, as political activists, have been arrested on many occasions for violating section 144,” the home minister said, asking Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani that he too was arrested as a preventive measure in Bihar when he was on a rath yatra in 1989.

“Was that arrest also not prohibitory,” Chidambaram asked, even as both Advani and RJD leader Lalu Prasad, who were present in the house, smiled at the reference.

Lalu Prasad also intervened to remind Chidambaram that current Home Secretary R.K. Singh was then the district collector who got Advani arrested. This invited laughter from the MPs.

When reminded by BJP leader Sushma Swaraj that the prohibitory order was not imposed in the area from where Hazare was arrested, Chidambaram replied: “He was arrested for intending to violate section 144. There was an apprehension of breach of peace.”

Elaborating on the sequence of events that led to the detention of Hazare and his being taken to Tihar jail, the minister said the Gandhian was asked before being arrested if he accepted the conditions set by police for allowing him to hold his protest.

“He said no and wanted to continue his protests in JP Park. He said he will violate the police order,” Chidambaram said, adding that he saluted Hazare for speaking “frankly like a true Gandhian”.

“The police acted on their best judgement, no force was used and not even lathi charge,” he said winding up the discussion that began shortly after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a statement over the issue.

He maintained that the government had “high respect” for Hazare and regretted the arrest that was “inevitable though unfortunate”.

Chidambaram also explained that it was not the prime minister or the home minister who decide on preventive and prohibitory arrests, but the local police that did so on the basis of their assessment of the likelihood that peace and tranquillity would be disturbed.

He said the decision to arrest Hazare was taken by police officers as the government would not interfere with the day-to-day functioning of the law and order enforcing agencies.

He agreed with remarks made by the prime minister and his ministerial colleague Kapil Sibal that “the real issue is who drafts the bill, who makes the law”.

He said the supremacy of the parliament ought to be “upheld”.

He said the remark by Team Anna that they have faith in parliament but not in parliamentarians was “astonishing” and that at no point of time could the government allow the supremacy of parliament in making legislations be undermined.

But he defended the government on its consultations with Hazare and his team of civil society representatives for drafting the Lokpal Bill, saying the contribution of civil society to the legislation was significant.

He gave the examples of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Right to Information Act and the Right to Education Act that had significant contributions from the civil society.

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