The Supreme Court on Monday slammed the Haryana government for failing to act against those who disrupted rail and road traffic in protest against the arrest of 98 members from the upper caste community in the Mirchpur Dalit killings.
A bench comprising Justice GS Singhvi and Justice AK Ganguly also took strong exception to the growing incidents of such protests. It added such protests were nothing but “strong-arm tactics to browbeat governments.”
The court said it would not remain a mute spectator to the show of muscle at the cost of constitutional principals.
Unless rule of law prevails this court will take drastic steps, the kind of which was not beeen seen so far. Muscle cannot prevail over rule of law. We want to know whether members of any particular community started using strong-arm tactics to browbeat the government,” it said.
It expressed strong displeasure against the members of 12 khap panchayats who during their 11-day-long protest had blocked road and rail traffic, thereby causing loss to the state exchequer.
“One group of people, who are having muscles, cannot put people of the country to ransom. People have a right to transport,” the bench said. It asked the Railways and the Haryana government to assess their financial losses due to the disruption.
The bench directed the Northern Railway General Manager to instruct senior officials to file an affidavit quantifying the loss. Haryana government, too, has been directed to evaluate the loss and file a similar affidavit. The same has to be done within two weeks.
“In the last few years, we have been witnessing, for 30-40 days trains are being stopped in Rajasthan. Thousands of passengers were prevented from using the railway service. Governments behave as if they were subservient to the agitators, as if there was no government at all. If these reports are correct, you have to explain,” the bench told Haryana’s additional advocate general, Manjeet Singh.
“Unless the situation improves, we have to take very drastic steps. Court cannot tolerate this persistent attitude of any community for destroying the absolute right of life of other communities. Please mark our words,” the bench said.
Villagers had been protesting against the arrest of 98 members of their community for allegedly killing 70-year-old Tara Chand and his teenaged daughter Suman in the village on April 21 last year.
The protestors demanded a fresh probe into the dalit killings. Most of those on the road belonged to the pre-dominant Jat community. They had been sitting on railway tracks at Julani village near Jind railway station since January 15, disrupting railway traffic on the Jind-Jakhal section of the Delhi-Ferozepur route.
The stir was called off on January 26 following Haryana Chief Minister's assurance to look into their demands.The trail against the accused of Mirchpur killings is pending before a Delhi court. All the accused are lodged in Tihar jail.