Coming down heavily on the Centre and Delhi Police, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the prosecution of police personnel involved in the crackdown on yoga guru Ramdev and his supporters at Ramlila Maidan in the early hours of June 5 last year.
Ramdev and his supporters were camping on the grounds in central Delhi to protest government inaction in fighting corruption when the police used force to disperse them.
The two-judge bench said the police had indulged in "unjustifiable and brutal acts" on the gathering by using teargas and lathi-charge to chase people out.
The bench of justice BS Chauhan and justice Swatanter Kumar said the crackdown was a “reflection of the might of the state which struck at the foundation of democracy”.
Observing that it was a glaring example of a “trust deficit” between the people and the government, the court also blamed Ramdev and his followers.
The court said it was a case of police excess and that the police had themselves breached the peace. It also said the police and the state could have avoided that tragic incident in which a woman, Rajbala, was critically injured during the mayhem and died in September.
The bench said policemen had assaulted sleeping victims and abused their power.
The court agreed with Ramdev that the home ministry and Delhi Police worked in coordination during the crackdown. It, however, dispelled the argument that the intention to act against the yoga guru and his followers was malafide.
Declaring that Ramdev’s threat to go on strike could not be termed as unconstitutional, the court questioned the police’s decision to invoke section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code on the night of June 4 without any “emergency threat”.
The bench said, “There should have existed some exceptional circumstances which reflected a clear and prominent threat to public order and public tranquility for the authorities to pass orders of withdrawal of permission at 9.30pm on 4th June, 2011.”
It wondered whether the deadlock in negotiations for an amicable resolution between the government and Ramdev was the turning point behind the police’s decision to disallow Ramdev from continuing with his camp.
The bench was surprised that the police wanted Ramdev to call off the protest even as it had increased the yoga guru’s security just a day before the crackdown, when the government had held talks with him.
Against the backdrop of the Supreme Court slamming the Delhi Police, the BJP held Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and union ministers P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal "accountable" for the crackdown.
“Such an attack on peaceful supporters of Ramdev would not have been possible without political clearance at a very high level. The policemen have suffered, but what about political accountability?" BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad asked.
He said the BJP holds not only Chidambaram and Sibal "accountable and responsible" for the incident but also Gandhi and the Prime Minister "accountable" for it.