Crackdown on Baba Ramdev followers 'tyrannical', says SC

Crackdown on Baba Ramdev followers 'tyrannical', says SC

Yoga guru also pulled up for June 11 disturbance at Ramlila Grounds

Crackdown on Baba Ramdev followers 'tyrannical', says SC

The Supreme Court on Thursday came down heavily on the Centre and the Delhi Police for the June 5, 2011, midnight crackdown on the followers of yoga guru Baba Ramdev at the Ramlila Grounds during his agitation against corruption, black money and other issues.

The apex court, however, also blamed Ramdev for the incident, which had caused sufferings to the people and even the death of a follower, Rajbala, due to severe spinal injuries. The court said he ought not to have insisted on continuing the agitation.

The court, which described the violent crackdown  on Ramdev’s supporters as a “tyrannical approach,” directed registration of an FIR and filing of charge sheets within three months against Delhi Police personnel and Ramdev’s supporters who indulged in brick-batting, leading to damage to public property and injuries on both sides.

Claiming that the Supreme Court verdict signified his victory, Ramdev said it was not right to say that he was also responsible for the incident. “It is not correct that I was equally responsible. The Delhi Police edited the CCTV footage which was shown to the court. Let me read the entire verdict then I will react to what the court has said about holding me partly responsible for the incident. Is holding protest a crime?” Ramdev asked.

Deriving some satisfaction that Ramdev too was held responsible, Delhi Police Commissioner B K Gupta said: “The Supreme Court believes that it was a ‘contributory negligence’ on the part of leaders of Bharat Swabhiman Trust who could have helped in dispersing public after imposition of Section 144 of the CrPC.” He added that the situation could have been averted “had the Bharat Swabhiman Trust leaders requested Ramdev’s supporters to comply with the Delhi Police orders.”

In the stern ruling, Justice Swatanter Kumar said: “The action demonstrated the might of the state and was an assault on the very basic democratic values enshrined in our Constitution.”

The Bench, also comprising Justice B S Chauhan, delivered two separate concurring verdicts in the matter which was initiated suo motu by the court after taking cognizance of media reports following the incident on the intervening night of June 4 and 5, 2011.

“I am bewildered to find out as to how such declaration of the intention to impose the prohibition was affected on a sleeping crowd. There may be a reason available to impose prohibitory orders calling upon an assembly to disperse, but to me, there does not appear to be any plausible reason for the police to resort to blows on a sleeping crowd and to throw them out of their encampments abruptly,” Justice Chauhan said.

The Delhi Police’s action on the sleeping followers of Ramdev was described as a human rights violation by the apex court. “Sleep is, therefore, a fundamental and basic requirement without which the existence of life itself would be in peril.

To disturb sleep, therefore, would amount to torture which is now a violation of human right,” the court added.

After the crackdown, the yoga guru had accused Union Home Minister P Chidambaram of issuing instructions to the Delhi Police to launch a midnight crackdown on his supporters at the Ramlila Grounds.

“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 the Ministry of Home Affairs, Union of India reflected its shadow on the decision making process and decision of the police authorities,” the court said.

The bench directed compensation of Rs 5 lakh to deceased Rajbala’s family members, Rs 50,000 to those who suffered grievous injuries and Rs 25,000 to those who received minor injuries. It also asked Ramdev’s trust to provide 25 per cent of the compensation due to contributory negligence.

Terming the present case as “a glaring example of trust deficit between the people governing and the people to be governed,” the court said that care must be taken while taking decision to proclaim prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

“The manner in which the said order came to be implemented, raised a deep concern about the tyrannical approach of the administration,” Justice Chauhan said in his separate decision.

“The incident in this litigation is an example of a weird expression of the desire of a tyrannical mind to threaten peaceful life suddenly for no justification. This, coupled with what is understood of sleep hereinbefore, makes it clear that the precipitate action was nothing but a clear violation of human rights and a definite violation of procedure for achieving the end of dispersing a crowd. This is what troubles me in the background that a prohibitory order was sought to be enforced on a sleeping crowd and not a violent one,” the court said.