Ramlila crackdown: SC raps Delhi police, Ramdev



Ramlila crackdown: SC raps Delhi police, Ramdev Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: In a significant development, the Supreme Court on Thursday held Baba Ramdev and Delhi Police guilty of negligence in connection with the midnight crackdown on yoga guru’s followers at the Ramlila Maidan on June 4-5 last year during his anti-corruption agitation.

The apex court, while stressing that the authorities could have avoided the violent incident, said that both Baba Ramdev and the police acted in an irresponsible manner.

“There was abuse of power by the Delhi Police and there was violation of fundamental rights of people,” the apex court bench of Justices BS Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar said.

“The incident shows might of the state which strikes at the foundation of democracy. It is a glaring example of trust deficit between people governing and people being governed,” the bench said.

The apex court said that the use of teargas shells and use of lathi charge by the Police, though limited, can hardly be justified.

"They are the protectors of the society and, therefore, cannot take recourse to such illegal act. Use of water cannons by the Police is again a myth," the bench said.

The judges gave concurrent findings in their nearly 300 page judgement and wrote it separately explaining on various aspects of the citizen's fundamental right and the State's duty in enforcing the rule of law.

"Police might have acted independently or in consultation with the Ministry. Either way, there is no material before me to hold that the decision of the Ministry or the Police was mala fide in law or in fact.

"Upon taking into consideration the cumulative effect of the affidavits filed on record and other documentary evidence, I am unable to dispel the argument that the decision of Ministry of Home Affairs, Union of India reflected its shadow on the decision making process and decision of the Police authorities," Justice Kumar in his judgement said.

Justice Chauhan assailed the police action as being "tyranical" which was let loose on innocent sleeping persons thus violating their fundamental right.

"There are circumstances and reasons given by the Home Minister in his statement for making the statement that he made. The decision of the Delhi Police in the normal course of events would have a connection with the declaration made by the Ministry.

"In considered view, in the facts of the present case, the State and police could have avoided this tragic incident by exercising greater restraint, patience and resilience.

The orders were passed by the authorities in "undue haste" and were executed with force and overzealousness, as if an emergent situation existed," Justice Kumar said.

The apex court said the decision to forcibly evict the innocent public sleeping at the Ramlila grounds in the midnight of 4th/5th June, 2011, whether taken by the police independently or consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs is amiss and suffers from the element of arbitrariness and abuse of power to some extent

"The documents on record show that some of the Police personnel certainly abused their authority, were unduly harsh and violent towards the people present at the Ramlila Maidan, whereas some others were, in fact, talking to the members of the gathering as well as had adopted a helpful attitude.

"Even if the followers of Ramdev acted in retaliation to the firing of teargas, still they had no cause or right in law to throw bricks towards the stage, in particular, towards the police and it is a hard fact that some police personnel were injured in the process," the bench said.

The Supreme Court also directed the Delhi government and the Delhi Police Commissioner to register a case against officers who caused injury, and those who used lathicharge and tear gas in the crackdown.

The court further asked the authorities to give a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family members of Rajbala, the woman who died due to the injury suffered in the police crackdown.

Besides, the court also ordered a compensation of Rs 50,000 for those who sustained serious injuries and Rs 35,000 for those with minor injuries during the incident.

Importantly, the apex court asked the yoga guru to share 25% of the total compensation to be given to the victims.

The apex court which examined the CCTV clipping and other material records before it clearly demonstrated indiscipline on behalf of the police personnel, but said the teargas shells were lobbed by the cops after it was attacked by bricks by followers of Ramdev who it felt ought to asked them to disperse.

The bench said that a person of Ramdev's stature could have defused the situation but he failed to do it.

"The role of Baba Ramdev at that crucial juncture could have turned the tide and probably brought a peaceful end rather than the heart rending end of injuries and unfortunate deaths.

"Every law abiding citizen should respect the law and must stand in conformity with the rule, be as high an individual may be.

"For these reasons, I have to take a view that in the circumstances of the case, Baba Ramdev and the office bearers of Randev's trust have contributed to the negligence leading to the occurrence in question and are vicariously liable for such action," Justice Kumar said.

The apex court though holding the cops and the Home Ministry responsible for the excess, however, took the view that the action was not actuated by malice.

"Police might have acted independently or in consultation with the ministry.

"Either way, there is no material before me to hold that the decision of the Ministry or the Police was malafide in law or in fact there was undue haste, adamancy and negligence on the part of the Police authorities, then also it cannot escape to mention that to this negligence, there is a contribution by Ramdev's trust as well," the bench said.

Meanwhile, the family members of Rajbala have refused to take any compensation from the yoga guru’s trust, saying that he was not responsible for the unfortunate incident.

The apex court had taken suo motu cognisance of media reports purportedly showing brutality of police action against the sleeping followers of Ramdev, including women and children.

Ramdev had alleged the police action was carried out on the instructions of their political masters and demanded action against all people who had directed the mid-night crackdown.

Ramdev was agitating along with his followers against corruption and demanding that the UPA government must make sincere efforts to bring back black money illegally parked in secret foreign bank accounts by tax evaders.

Delhi Police, however, claimed Ramdev had instigated his followers to indulge in violence, forcing the police to act at that time of the night.