New Delhi, Jan 31: The Supreme Court Friday expressed satisfaction with the response of Delhi Police and their handling of the two-day roadside protest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Jan 20-21.
Accepting the response of Delhi Police, a bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh said: “They (police) have acted reasonably fast, and did not remain simply dormant.”
“Having regard to the statement made by the DCP Headquarters with regard to the action taken once the dharna started on Jan 20, at 12 p.m., we are satisfied that no further order needs to be passed in the present petition and the same is disposed of,” the court said. It accepted the Delhi Police response to two queries it posed in the last hearing Jan 24.
Kejriwal sat by roadside in protest, demanding the suspension of four police officers who had refused to act on the orders of his ministers. The issue of full statehood for Delhi and administrative control of Delhi Police by the state rather than the central government also came up during the dharna (sit-in).
The apex court during the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) by advocate N.Rajaraman sought answers from the Delhi Police chief as to why despite prohibitory orders, the law enforcement machinery/police permitted five or more people to assemble unlawfully.
The second poser was “whether law enforcement machinery/police acted appropriately and with utmost expedition in dispersing the unlawful assembly by force under Section 129(2) of CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) after such assembly was informed under Section 129(1) to disperse and despite such command, the assembly did not disperse”.
Delhi Police in a blow-by-blow account told the court what steps it took to deal with the situation.
Additional Solicitor General Siddharth Luthra took the court through the steps taken by police to deal with the situation and told the court whatever was needed in the course of the events was done.
“We don’t need to go into the sufficiency of their actions or reasons. They had acted sufficiently,” the court said as Rajaraman sought to contest the explanation offered by police.
“We will not substitute our opinion whether police remained lax or used lathi (baton) charge. They have done what could have been done. Do you expect them to shoot at sight? Understand the psyche of police, they can’t act immediately and take coercive step,” observed Justice Lodha.
“In democracy, they (police) have to bear in mind the Article 19(1) (of the constitution – guaranteeing freedom of speech, expression, of association and freedom of movement). The right of an individual and the obligation of the state have to be balanced,” said Justice Singh, buttressing the point made by Justice Lodha.
“In democracy, the individual’s rights have to balanced with the obligation of the state. They can’t be chastened by the use of disproportionate force,” Justice Lodha said.
“Every individual may have a right to different perception. If a person who has acted in a perception that is different from other’s, that does not mean it is wrong,” he added.