Anna told them that he intended to defy prohibitory orders

Justifying the action taken against social activist Anna Hazare and his supporters, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said on Tuesday that the Delhi Police had no other option as they insisted on their going ahead with the fast despite prohibitory orders in force.

“Police met Anna Hazare this morning; and to a question, he told them that he intended to defy the prohibitory orders. At that time, the police came to the conclusion that he will commit a cognisable offence. They invoked Sections 107 and 151 of the Cr.PC, which provides for preventive measures.”

At a news conference here, he was responding to a volley of questions on why the police detained Mr. Hazare and his supporters even before they defied the orders.

Answering another question, Mr. Chidambaram denied that he or his Ministry was any way involved in the decision taken by the police. His Ministry's role was limited to laying down policies and the police took decisions taking into account the circumstances. “We were only kept informed.”

He pointed out that the prohibitory orders were issued only after Mr. Hazare and his team refused to accept the conditions imposed.

Terming the conditions reasonable, he recalled that the agency which owned the venue, Jayaprakash Narain Park, had given permission for just two days, and it could not be used for an indefinite fast.

“If they thought that conditions were unreasonable, they could have approached the court… We are not against peaceful demonstrations or protests. But they must be subject to reasonable conditions, considering the need for maintenance of law and order, public peace and tranquillity. The Supreme Court and the High Courts have also time and again given directions in this regard.”

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, who addressed the media along with Mr. Chidambaram and Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, noted that the venue was very close to the Maulana Azad Medical College and Hospital, a major government institution, and a commercial area, and consequently restrictions had to be imposed on the size of the gathering and the number of vehicles that could be parked there.

“How can one allow a situation that would have put the hundreds of patients visiting the hospital and those who need to do business in the nearby commercial area to so much inconvenience? Just as Team Anna has a right to protest, others also have a right to go on with their life unhindered.”

Ms. Soni reiterated that the government was against corruption and taking a number of measures to curb it. Among them was the move to bring in a Judicial Accountability Bill, a Bill to protect whistleblowers and an amendment to the Central Vigilance Commission Act.

Asked whether the government would reach out to Mr. Hazare, Mr. Chidambaram said the government was open to discussions with Mr. Hazare and his team on improving the Lokpal Bill. But, he said, it would be better for them to approach the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which is looking into it.

He accused Team Anna of adopting ‘my Bill or no other Bill' approach. “A Bill may not be perfect totally. It can be amended if found necessary.”

Mr. Chidambaram denied that the government had not given enough opportunity to Team Anna to discuss the issue. Noting that they were part of the committee set up to draft the Bill, he said: “I have spent more time on the Lokpal Bill than any other issue concerning my Ministry.”

To another question, he said the government would talk to the Opposition parties to ensure that the parliamentary session resumed and worked smoothly. “Laws will have to be made in Parliament, not by a group of social activists [sitting] in a maidan, however well-meaning they are. This is beyond my comprehension.”

Terming “wrong” the call Mr. Hazare had given to government servants to take mass casual leave and join the protests, he expressed the hope that they would not heed it.

Mr. Chidambaram, Mr. Sibal and Ms. Soni were addressing the journalists on behalf of the Group of Ministers for media interaction. They were part of the panel.