‘Allowing people to gather when ban order is in force itself a breach of law and order’

The Supreme Court on Friday pulled up the Delhi Police Commissioner for allowing the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his Cabinet colleagues and Aam Admi Party supporters to hold a dharna when prohibitory order was in force.

A Bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and Shivakirti Singh, acting on a writ petition filed by advocate N. Rajaraman, questioned Additional Solicitor-General Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the CoP, as to why the people were allowed to assemble and gather in the capital on January 20 and 21 when Section 144 Cr.P.C. was in place.

In his petition Mr. Rajaram said, “The Chief Minister of Delhi in spite of swearing allegiance to the Constitution called for a dharna in Lutyens Delhi when the Republic day celebrations are underway and transferring the responsibility of the peaceful conduct of the Republic Day parade as the responsibility of the Central government in utter disregard to the Constitution and rule of law and prohibitory order.”

Justice Lodha asked the ASG, “Tell us how did the police permit more than five persons to assemble? police will close their eyes and let it happen and allow people to gather. Why was the gathering permitted at all in the first instance? The law enforcing agency has an obligation and it cannot permit law to be broken before their eyes. Normally we do not interfere in these matters. But when law is broken we will interfere.”

Justice Lodha told the ASG, “Allowing people to gather when Section 144 Cr.P.C. is in force is itself would amount to breach of law and order. Tell us whether police acted expeditiously to remove them. We really don’t know why did it happen at all when the police are vigilant. Police did not have any plan to stop them for various reasons. There must be some reason for not taking against agitators even after 24 hours or 36 hours. Our role is only to see that constitutional provisions are respected and law is enforced.”

The ASG said FIRs had been registered and action would be taken in accordance with law. In a brief order, the Bench asked the police reply for the two issues, viz. “Why despite the prohibitory order under Section 144 Cr.P.C. the law enforcement machinery/police permitted five or more persons to assemble unlawfully and whether law enforcement machinery acted appropriately and with utmost expedition in dispersing the unlawful assembly by force under Section 129 (2) Cr.P.C. after such assembly was informed under Section 129 (1) to disperse and despite such a command the assembly did not disperse.” The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on January 31.