Will hear Sabarimala case before taking up contempt pleas on police reforms, says Supreme Court

Apex court spells out its priorities clearly after advocate Prashant Bhushan seeks urgent hearing

February 28, 2020 01:42 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 10:36 pm IST - New Delhi

Photo used for representational purpose. | File

Photo used for representational purpose. | File

The Supreme Court on Friday made it clear that it would hear Sabarimala petitions on the extent of religious freedom available to citizens across multiple faiths before applying its mind to whether authorities should be hauled up for contempt for not complying with its 13-year-old judgment that police should not become a tool in the hands of authoritarian regimes and political bosses.


The occasion came when advocate Prashant Bhushan sought an urgent hearing of contempt petitions pending on the non-implementation of the Prakash Singh judgment of September 22, 2006, which had issued specific directives to unshackle the police from political influences.

Mr. Bhushan made the urgent mention especially in the light of criticism that the Delhi Police did not act with alacrity to prevent violence and save lives before and during the riots which rocked the National Capital .

However, Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde, before whom the request was made, said the court would first hear the Sabarimala case. A nine-judge Constitution Bench has been set up to decide the extent of religious freedom under Article 25 and on what would conform as essential religious practices.


It was only on February 26 that Supreme Court judge K.M. Joseph, while hearing the Shaheen Bagh protest case, commented on the “lack of professionalism” shown by the Delhi Police in not stopping people from making hate speeches, which led to the Delhi riots.

“If you had not allowed people to get away after inflammatory remarks, all this would not have happened,” Justice Joseph had said.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, who was the lead judge on the Shaheen Bagh Bench, had also described the instances of communal violence in Delhi as “deeply unfortunate”.

A third Supreme Court judge, Deepak Gupta, had at a public forum, red-flagged the hike in sedition cases against activists, lawyers and students and branding voices of dissent as “anti-nationals”. Expressing dissent to government’s policies did not amount to acting against the nation, he had said.

The Prakash Singh judgment had held that “commitment, devotion and accountability of the police has to be only to the rule of law”.


“The supervision and control has to be such that it ensures that the police serves the people without any regard, whatsoever, to the status and position of any person while investigating a crime or taking preventive measures,” the Supreme Court had held in 2006.

The apex court had underlined that the approach of the police should be service oriented. The police should not act in a such a way that rule of law became a casualty.

If the police crossed the limits of law, the guilty among them should be brought to book.

The judgment had referred to ‘Political and Administrative Manipulation of the Police’ published in 1979 by Bureau of Police Research and Development, warning that excessive control of the political executive and its principal advisers over the police has the inherent danger of making the police a tool for subverting the process of law, promoting the growth of authoritarianism and shaking the very foundations of democracy.

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