Stressing that every individual holding a constitutional post is also governed by the constitution, the Supreme Court Friday raised questions about the propriety of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his cabinet sitting in protest in violation of prohibitory orders and put them on notice over the constitutionality of their actions.
The court also censured the Delhi Police, which is administered by the Central government, for letting Kejriwal and his AAP supporters gather in large numbers in the heart of Delhi despite imposition of the order against unlawful assembly.
It also questioned the police over its reluctance to take action against the protesters even after they refused to disperse following a warning.
Besides the Delhi government, a bench of Justices R M Lodha and S K Singh sought a response from the Ministry of Home Affairs on a PIL which sought action against Kejriwal and his ministers for breaching the oath under the constitution to maintain and uphold the law.
“The writ petition raises issue of constitutional importance,” the bench said and observed that it was concerned with the subject of constitutional impropriety and whether the legal process was being obstructed.
“We must remember that the constitution is supreme and every institution is a product of constitution. Every individual holding a constitutional post is also governed by the constitution,” the court said.
The petitioner, advocate M L Sharma, argued that a lawmaker could not be allowed to become a law breaker and resort to protest by forming an unlawful assembly. He urged the court to look into the issue whether a chief minister and his cabinet can protest in violation of the law and the consequences.
AAP members led by Kejriwal had gathered outside the Rail Bhawan for two days this week demanding action against police officers they claimed had refused to do their jobs.
On a separate petition by advocate N Rajaraman, the court grilled the Delhi Police for permitting Kejriwal and his supporters to gather when a prohibitory order had been clamped in the area.
“The first question is that how could you let them assemble when the prohibitory order was already in place? You may admit you were not in a position to act and tell us the reasons for your inaction. If police was taking command from someone, you tell the court and we will see what we can do,” the bench said.
The court asked Additional Solicitor General Sidharth Luthra, who appeared for the Delhi Police Commissioner, how the police let protesters sneak in when they knew it was in violation of Section 144 CrPC.
“Will the police close its eyes? You say they gathered in 45 minutes. That’s too long. You realise the World Trade Centre was destroyed in just 3 minutes? If police had acted expeditiously, it could have been stalled then and there,” it observed.
The court reminded the police that it had a clear obligation to ensure peace was maintained and they could not act as “mute spectators.” It also pulled up the police for being soft on the protesters although the protest was clearly in violation of the law.
“Tell us what did you do after they refused to disperse after your command? You could not have deferred the action under the law even for an hour. Immediate action should have followed. Hours and hours of waiting can by no stretch of imagination be called reasonable time,” it said.
As Luthra sought to defend the police action, the bench gave him a week to answer why the police allowed people to assemble despite the prohibitory order and whether they acted appropriately and with utmost expedition in dispersing unlawful assembly by force after the gathering refused to do so even after the warning.