Pay Rs 10 lakh to protest: Police hikes surety bonds

Pay Rs 10 lakh to protest: Police hikes surety bonds to rein in rallies

People gather in large numbers to protest against CAA outside Town Hall in Bengaluru. DH File Photo/Pushkar V

Rallies against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) or the government are increasingly being cleared only after organisers sign large-amount police surety bonds, which some activists and lawyers describe as dampening dissent.

“Some of the initial protests, following the lifting of Section 144 in December, were given police permission after organisers signed surety bonds for under a lakh. Now, most bonds are over a lakh,” an organiser said. In some cases, the bonds have been as high as Rs 10 lakh, which one lawyer working on behalf of the anti-CAA movement, described as designed to intimidate organisers. 

“Many of the protests are organised by people new to protesting, such as students or IT employees. The prospect of signing a Rs 10-lakh bond is scary. Many people say, ‘how can I sign such a bond? I don’t have Rs 10 lakh’,” the lawyer said.

Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao clarified that setting the amount lies under the purview of his DCPs, but said he backed high-amount bonds. “The bonds are a means to keep rallies and protests from turning violent. They make organisers financially responsible for what happens at their events. If we didn’t use them, protesters could potentially hold the city for ransom.”

Chetan Singh Rathore, DCP (Central), whose command has had to bear the brunt of pro and anti-CAA rallies at Town Hall, said he sets the bond amount depending on how volatile the situation is.

“In some cases, such as employment-related rallies at Town Hall, the surety bond is less, but where we have protests which are more volatile, we slap about Rs 10 lakh,” he said.

He denied that the bonds are being used to curb freedom of protest, claiming that he had also slapped a Rs 10-lakh surety bond on the “Indians for CAA” movement when it organised a pro-CAA rally at Town Hall on December 23. The rally organiser, Neeraj Kamath, confirmed the bond sum of Rs 10 lakh.

Bond Issuance ‘Illegal’

Lawyers, however, said the way the bonds are issued is illegal. 

The surety bonds, which come under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, require no money up front but necessitates that five people take responsibility for signing the bond. However, they can only be issued after an executive magistrate receives information that a person is likely to commit a breach of
peace or disturb public tranquillity. 

“The police are issuing bonds without any of these conditions being met. This is completely illegal,” advocate Avani Chokshi said.

The police commissioner scoffed.

“If it is illegal, let them contest it in court,” he said. He clarified, however, that no city protesters have had to actually pay upon these bonds.

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