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‘Book cops for Ramdev crackdown’

Ramlila * Supreme Court says action shows trust deficit between govt and people

Written by Krishnadas Rajagopal | New Delhi | Published: February 24, 2012 2:55:33 am

The Supreme Court today described the midnight crackdown on Baba Ramdev’s supporters at Ramlila Maidan last summer as a glaring example of the “trust deficit” between the government and the people,and blamed both the police and the Baba for neglecting the common man caught in the brick-batting between them.

The people who were “rudely” woken up at the maidan became the “ultimate sufferers” of the showdown in the dark between Ramdev and the police,the court said.

It directed the registration of criminal cases against all those liable,among both the police and Ramdev’s followers. The chargesheet has to be filed in court in three months. Erring officers,no matter what their rank,would be liable to disciplinary action,the court said.

“The present case is a glaring example of trust deficit between the people governing and the people governed. Greater confidence needs to be built between the authorities in power and the public at large. This was primarily an error of performance of duty by both sides and the ultimate sufferer was the public at large,” Justice Swatanter Kumar said in his separate judgment.

The apex court explained that through a suo motu judicial review of the Ramlila matter,it did not mean to “strike down” state actions,but contribute to the governmental system and make it fair,judicious and transparent.

In his separate judgment,Justice B S Chauhan declared that there was no “extraordinary emergency” for the police to use force on thousands of people sleeping in tents at the maidan.

He said the right to a good night’s sleep is a fundamental right under the constitution. Justice Kumar concurred to say that there was nothing in the police records placed in court to indicate an “extraordinary emergency that existed on midnight of 4th/5th June,2011 which led the police to resort to waking up sleeping persons,throwing them out of the tents and forcing them to disperse using force,cane sticks,teargas shells and brick-batting”.

“I am also unable to understand as to why this enforcement could not even wait till early next morning,June 5,2011,” he said.

“What is indisputable before this court is that the police as well as the followers of Baba Ramdev indulged into brick batting. The brick batting resorted to by both sides cannot be justified in any circumstances whatsoever,” the court said.

While holding that some members of the police did try to calm the people,the court said many personnel,in breach of their duty,acted with “uncontrolled force”.

The court held Ramdev and members of his trust guilty of breaching their legal and moral duty. It held them liable for legal action for negligence that contributed to the “unfortunate incident”.

“Baba Ramdev jumping from the stage into the crowd,while declining to accept the orders and implement them,is contrary to the basic rule of law as well as the legal and moral duty that they were expected to adhere to. They have to be held guilty of breach of these legal and moral duties,” the court held.

The court directed payment of Rs 5 lakh compensation to the family of Rajbala,the woman who died of injuries suffered in the police action. Those who suffered grievous and simple injuries will get Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 respectively. Ramdev’s trust will contribute 25 per cent of the compensation,the court said.

Justice Kumar rejected the police version that Section 144 CrPC had to be invoked after it was found that the Baba had lied about his intention. The judgment traced the roots of the crackdown to failed negotiations between Ramdev and government representatives at The Claridges hotel shortly after the guru arrived in Delhi.

“It appears that failure of negotiations… on June 3,2011,left its shadow on the decision-making power of the police. This proved to be the turning point of the entire episode,” the court said.

“The decision to forcibly evict the innocent public…,whether taken by the police independently or in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs,is amiss and suffers from the element of arbitrariness and abuse of power to some extent,” Justice Kumar observed.

But the court found no error with the police working in tandem or cooperation with the ministry.

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