Apex court slams blockades

Apex court slams blockades

Order of the day:

The apex court observed that groups with muscle power can’t hold the country to ransom by blocking rail or road traffic. DH file photo

The Supreme Court on Monday took strong exception to growing incidents of protesters and agitationists using “strong-arm tactics to browbeat governments” by blocking rail and road traffic.

The court said it cannot remain a “mute spectator” to groups using muscle power for taking the country to ransom and warned them of drastic steps for violating the rule of law.

The strong remarks were made by a Bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly which was hearing a petition relating to the killings of Dalits in Mirchpur village of Hissar district in Haryana.

It was expressing its displeasure against members of the “khap” (community) panchayats, which during their protest against the booking of some upper caste people in the Mirchpur Dalit killings case, had disrupted rail and road traffic causing huge loss to the exchequer.

“One group of people, who are having muscles cannot put people of the country to ransom. People have a right to transport,” the Bench said asking the Railways and the Haryana government to assess their financial losses due to the disruption in rail and road traffic during the 11-day stir organised by 12 khap panchayats.

The Bench directed the Northern Railway general manager to instruct senior officials to file an affidavit quantifying the loss suffered by the Railways. It also asked the Haryana government to evaluate and apprise the court about the loss suffered by the state exchequer and steps taken by it for free flow of road traffic.

The Bench also issued notices to the Centre and the state government and sought their responses within two weeks.

While dealing with the matter, the Bench also spoke about the recent agitation by the Gujjar community in Rajasthan which paralysed the rail and road traffic.

“In the last few years, we have been witnessing, for 30-40 days trains are being stopped in Rajasthan. Thousands of passengers were prevented from using the railway service. Governments behave as if they were subservient to the agitators, as if there was no government at all. If these reports are correct, You have to explain,” it said.

Drastic steps

“Unless the situation improves, we have to take very drastic steps. Court cannot tolerate these persistent attitude of any community for destroying the absolute right of life of other communities. Please mark our words,” the bench said.

Villagers had been protesting against the booking of 98 members of their community in the case relating to the killing of 70-year-old Tara Chand and his teenaged daughter Suman at Mirchpur village in Hisar on April 21 last year.

Demanding a fresh probe into the Dalit killings, upper caste people of Mirchpur and other adjoining villages in Hisar district had brought the rail and road traffic to Delhi via Jind to a grinding halt earlier this month.

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