Ramlila crackdown an assault on basic democratic values: Supreme Court

Court blames Baba Ramdev for contributory negligence

February 23, 2012 02:33 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 12:18 am IST - New Delhi

The action of the Delhi police in evicting yoga guru Baba Ramdev and his followers on the night of June 4/5, 2011 — they were sleeping on the Ramlila grounds — demonstrated the might of the state and was an assault on the very basic democratic values enshrined in our Constitution, the Supreme Court held on Thursday.

A Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar in its suo motu case relating to the eviction said: “It is evident that it was not a case of emergency. The police have failed to establish that a situation had arisen where there was an imminent need to intervene, having regard to the sensitivity and perniciously perilous consequences that could have resulted, if such harsh measures had not been taken forthwith.”

Mr. Justice Swatanter Kumar wrote the main judgment and Mr. Justice Chauhan supplemented and gave additional reasons.

The Bench, however, blamed Baba Ramdev for contributory negligence stating that he did not advise his followers to leave the Ramlila grounds once the order granting permission was withdrawn.

The Bench directed the police to pay Rs. 5 lakh as ad hoc compensation to the family of Rajbala, who sustained grievous injuries and later died in hospital. It also awarded compensation of Rs. 50,000 each to those who sustained grievous injuries and Rs. 25,000 for injuries and asked Baba Ramdev's trust to bear 25 per cent of the compensation and deposit the same with the Delhi police commissioner.

In his judgment, Mr. Justice Kumar said: “Admittedly, when the police had entered the tent, the entire assembly was sleeping. It is not reflected in the affidavit of the police as to what conditions existed at that time compelling the authorities to use force. The police, in breach of their duty, acted with uncontrolled force.”

Undue haste

The Bench said: “Non-grant of reasonable time and undue haste on the part of the police authorities to enforce the [ban] orders under Section 144 Criminal Procedure Code instantaneously had resulted in the unfortunate incident of human irony which could have been avoided with a little more patience and control. It was expected of the police authorities to bastion the rights of the citizens of the country. However, undue haste on the part of the police created angst and disarray amongst the gathering at the Ramlila Maidan, which finally resulted in this sad cataclysm.”

It pointed out that orders revoking permission were passed arbitrarily. “What is undisputable before this court is that the police as well as the followers of Baba Ramdev indulged in brick-batting. Teargas shells were fired at the crowd by the police and, to a limited extent, the police resorted to lathi charge. CCTV Camera No. 5 shows that the police personnel were also throwing bricks. Similarly, the use of teargas shells and use of lathi charge by the police, though limited, can hardly be justified. In no case, brick-batting by the police can be condoned. They are the protectors of society and, therefore, cannot take recourse to such illegal methods of controlling the crowd. There is also no doubt that a large number of persons were injured in the police action and had to be hospitalised. Baba Ramdev in jumping from the stage into the crowd, while declining to accept the orders and implement them, [acted] contrary to the basic rule of law as well as the legal and moral duty that people were expected to adhere to.”

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