Two decades after farmer leader Mahinder Singh Tikait, leading legions of dissenting field hands from western Uttar Pradesh laid siege at India Gate’s boat club, symbolically striking at the very core of its power corridor in the late 80s, similar days are once again in store for Delhi.
Thanks to the persistence of Bano Bi, a Bhopal Gas Tragedy victim camping at Jantar Mantar, a permanent ban on holding public demonstrations in the high-security central Delhi district, resulting from an archaic provision inherited from our erstwhile colonial masters, is history, at least theoretically.
“As a response to Bi’s writ petition, section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPc) — which empowers a government official, including the police, to declare an assembly of four or more persons unlawful, and hence disperse participants from public gatherings — has been rescinded from central Delhi,” said a senior Delhi Police officer requesting anonymity.
The Delhi Police, which used to re-issue the said order every time after it expired at the end of a legally-binding 60-day period, at least in the central district, has, from now onwards, been directed to stop doing so.
Though participants will still have to seek the permission of the local police before holding a public demonstration in areas such as the C hexagon of the India Gate in addition to its lawns as well as the adjacent boat club area, as per the Delhi High Court order, the police will no longer be in a position to say a blanket ‘no’ citing the order which is meant to be used only in the event of a law and order contingency.
Each request to organize a rally in the heart of New Delhi will at least have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
“In response to the writ petition, we have filed a deferment and withdrawn the said order. But, we still have the power to issue orders under section 144 of the CrPC to keep law and order under control in emergency situations,” said Dharmendra Kumar, special commissioner of the Delhi Police.