Perturbed by reports of lawlessness at the Patiala House Courts complex when JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar was produced, the Supreme Court Wednesday made Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi “personally responsible” for the safety of the student leader who has been booked in a sedition case.
The bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Abhay M Sapre had to step in twice during the day to make sure “no harm is caused” to Kanhaiya, lawyers and journalists, and sought an explanation from the Delhi Police on reports that Kanhaiya was assaulted.
“It is reported today by the members of the (Supreme Court-appointed) committee that the accused was manhandled while he was produced before the (trial) court today. We, therefore, make it clear that the responsibility is exclusively that of the Commissioner of Police, Delhi to ensure the safety of the accused,” the bench ordered.
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The committee told the bench that they too were abused and called “Pakistan ke dalle” (pimps of Pakistan), “beh……”, that flower pots, bottles and pebbles were thrown at them at Patiala House Courts.
The day began with the bench hearing a petition filed by JNU alumnus N D Jayaprakash, demanding safety of the accused, journalists and others, apart from directives to the Delhi Police to ensure that access to justice is available to Kanhaiya too. Senior lawyers K T S Tulsi, Rajeev Dhavan, Raju Ramachandran and advocate Prashant Bhushan appealed for intervention by the apex court.
Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, appearing for Delhi High Court, told the bench that the administrative committee of the High Court was looking into the matter and had also sought a report on Monday’s incident from the chief judge of the Patiala House Courts. “The committee is meeting at 2 pm again today to discuss the matter further,” Luthra said.
Representing Delhi Police, senior lawyer Ajit K Sinha described Monday’s incident as “unfortunate”, adding that it happened in a charged atmosphere. “CRPF has also been deployed now. There are six ACPs and women SHOs stationed at Patiala House courts. Investigation is on regarding the earlier incident,” Sinha said.
At this, the bench issued a string of directives to ensure a conducive atmosphere during the hearing at Patiala House Courts where Kanhaiya was to be produced before a magistrate following completion of his police custody.
Directing Delhi Police to “take control of the situation,” the bench ordered restricted entry of lawyers, visitors and journalists inside the magistrate’s court room after Sinha assured no law and order problem would arise anymore.
But less than two hours after this order, Kapil Sibal and Prashant Bhushan showed up before the bench again at 2 pm, informing it about fresh violence at the Patiala House Courts and the attack on Kanhaiya.
At this, the bench summoned Sinha and sought a report on the incident. He was told to convey to the Police Commissioner the “concerns” of the court on the situation. The bench action must be taken against everyone irrespective of profession. It turned down a plea to summon Bassi, saying he must be busy in monitoring the situation but asked Sinha to speak to him immediately.
Around 3 pm, the apex court also appointed a five-member team of lawyers — Kapil Sibal, Rajeev Dhavan, Haren P Raval, Dushyant Dave and A D N Rao — to visit Patiala House Courts, along with Sinha, and report back on the situation there. Sinha was asked to speak to Bassi over the phone to provide adequate security to the panel.
The lawyers came back to the apex court at 4 pm and confirmed reports that Kanhaiya was assaulted and said that the police failed to control the situation or contain the violence. Dhavan said they were abused and called ‘Pakistan ke dalle’ (pimps of Pakistan) and “beh……” while Sibal added that flower pots, bottles and pebbles were thrown at them.
At this, the bench asked Sinha: “Will your Commissioner of Police take responsibility of all this? We are making him personally responsible to see no harm is caused to anyone.”
It asked the lawyers’ panel and Delhi High Court to submit their reports on Thursday. Delhi Police has to furnish an explanation by Friday. The court will hear the case further at 2 pm Thursday.