Supreme Court blasts Delhi Police for Ramdev crackdown (Second Lead)

February 23rd, 2012 - 10:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Anna Hazare New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday came down heavily on Delhi Police for the midnight crackdown on Ramdev and his followers here last year that killed a woman but said the yoga guru was also guilty “of contributory negligence”.

The court awarded ad hoc compensation of Rs.5 lakh to the family of Haryana woman Rajbala who suffered spinal injuries and died after police assaulted scores of sleeping men and women on the night of June 4-5.

Judges Swatanter Kumar and B.S. Chauhan also awarded Rs.50,000 to those who suffered serious injuries and Rs.25,000 to the other injured. Ramdev’s trust was asked to bear 25 percent of the compensation.

The court accused the police of demonstrating the might of the state, and that the orders to disperse Ramdev and his supporters were passed in undue haste and executed with brute force.

“Police could have avoided this tragic incident by exercising greater restraint, patience and resilience,” Justice Kumar said, adding that the police action was “an invasion of the exercise of fundamental freedom”.

“The restriction imposed on the right to freedom of speech and expression was unsupported by cogent reasons and material facts.”

Justice Chauhan in his concurrent ruling said the essence of Section 144 was to prevent breach of peace and not to breach the peace.

He said the people at the sprawling Ramlila ground were sleeping and they were not violent.

Ramdev had called his meeting to also denounce growing corruption. The same Ramlila ground was later virtually taken over by Anna Hazare and his team also to campaign against corruption.

After forcibly dispersing Ramdev’s supporters, the yoga guru was forced to leave Delhi. He returned to his base in Haridwar.

“A sleeping crowd cannot be included within the bracket of an unlawful category unless there is sufficient material to brand it as such,” Chauhan said.

The court said irrespective of whether the crackdown was ordered by police independently or in consultation with the home ministry, it suffered from “arbitrariness and abuse of power to some extent”.

“The restriction (on the assembly) was unreasonable and unwarrantedly executed.”

The police action was an assault on the “very basic democratic values enshrined in our constitution”, Justice Kumar said.

Jusrtice Chauhan added that the “outrageous behaviour” of police cannot be justified by law in any civilized society.

Justice Kumar warned police to desist from any repetition of “such hasty and unwarranted act” affecting the safety of people.

The court also held Baba Ramdev “guilty of contributory negligence”.

“Due to the stature Ramdev enjoyed with his followers, it was expected of him to request the gathering to disperse peacefully and leave the Ramlila Maidan. He ought not to have insisted on continuing with his activity at the place,” Justice Kumar said.

The court directed the police to initiate cases against its personnel and Ramdev supporters who contributed to the violence and destruction of public property.

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