Bench of Justice B S Chauhan and Justice Swatantra Kumar
Ram Jethmalani resumed his arguments in the case of Delhi Police crackdown on Ramlila Maidan on 4th June this year. Starting his arguments before a bench of Justice B S Chauhan and Justice Swatantra Kumar, Jethmalani argued on use of Section 144, whether Delhi Police could withdraw the permission granted to Baba Ramdev, background of Ramdev’s movement against corruption, MCD’s power to cancel permission, affidavit of Delhi Police and role of Home Minister P Chidambaram.
Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code
Jethmalani resumed his arguments of power of the police to use Article 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Jethmalani pointed out the conditions under which this section can be used by the police. According to Jethmalani, section 144 can only be used in cases where there is a need for immediate prevention and there is a need for speedy remedy. Jethmalani reiterate that section 144 can not be used for dangers which are foreseen in future but only in cases of imminent dangers. Jethmalani went on to say that the order issued under section 144 must prescribe the material facts.
Jethmalani went on to say that order under section 144 can only be used for two things; first is to direct any person to abstain from any particular act and second is to ask a person to take certain orders regarding certain property under his management.“…In this case, the only act people were doing was breathing. Section 144 can only be used if a person is interfering with the rights of any other person. In this case, there is nothing like this. Usually politicians attract section 144 and not the teachers of Yoga. This order is perverse and dishonest.” argued Jethmalani.
At this point Jethmalani also cited a Supreme Court judgment on this issue. 1970/3/SCC/746. According to the said judgment section 144 can be used in cases where emergency must be sudden and the consequences are grave. Without this there is no justification to use power under section 144.
Whether Delhi Police could withdraw permission given to Baba Ramdev
Taking his arguments forward, Jethmalani pointed towards the act of police to withdraw permission from Baba Ramdev to hold his protest at Ramlila Maidan. Jethmalani enumerated few points before the bench. According to Jethmalani, it was the MCD which is the owner of Ramlila maidan and MCD as a matter of routine and not law, asked the Bharat Swabhiman Trust to get a NOC from Delhi police. According to Jethmalani , Delhi police promptly gave the NOC but with the some conditions. Accordingly,
1. They were instructed not to obstruct the flow of traffic
2. They were to get the permission from the owner that is MCD
3. They were asked to deploy sufficient number of volunteers to manage the crowds at the venue
4. And they were asked to follow conditions imposed from time to time otherwise the NOC would be revoked
Jethmalani pointed out that even MCD objected to the fact that Delhi Police had claimed that they shall be at liberty to cancel the permission if any of the conditions were not met.
At this point, Justice B S Chauhan inquired from Ram Jethmalani if police had the power to revoke the permission granted under any statute? Jethmalani informed the court that police had no power to revoke the permission as it was MCD which could have done it.
Background of Baba Ramdev’s movement against corruption
At this stage, Ram Jethmalani took the court to the background of the movement against corruption. According to Jethmalani Swami Ramdev had been working tirelessly to bring back black money stashed abroad.
“…This is not the first time Ramdev organized a fast. He travelled length and breadth of the country. Even the Prime Minister had written back to Ramdev regarding the government’s efforts to bring back black money stashed abroad…” informed Jethmalani. Jethmalani also brought to the notice of the court how Ramdev was persuaded by the police not to hold his fast at Jantar Mantar. Jethmalani informed the court that Ramdev had the permission to hold Satyagraha at Jantar Mantar also.
According to Jethmalani government was not serious about efforts to bring back black money and the idea was to crush the movement. Jethmalani also mentioned that government had filed a SLP in the Supreme Court against the order to appoint a SIT to monitor government’s efforts to bring back black money. “…They knew names of these dacoits will manifest and they will join the wonderful inmates who have assembled in the Tihar Jain right now…” said Jethmalani.
At this point of time, Jethmalani mentioned failure of the then Home Secretary to file an affidavit on the entire incident. According to him “…The home secretary is too honest to file an affidavit. He has retired, if he was in service, he might have succumbed to the pressure…” Jethmalani also referred to a secret report of the Delhi Police filed in a sealed cover before the Supreme Court. Surprisingly, Jethmalani had the copy of it. While trying to demolish the contents of the said report he said in a lighter vein that a stolen evidence is also a good evidence. He also mentioned about that report which stated that as per reliable inputs, Sadhus will come and the total number of people gathering might be more than one lakh. According to the said report, the Satyagraha will shift from Ramlila Maidan to Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Maidan would be used for mobilization.
Procedure for cancellation of permission by MCD
At this point of time, Ram Jethmalani informed the court about the procedure by which MCD can revoke the permission granted to anyone. Accordingly, the MCD can only cancel the permission on the recommendations of District Commissioner who will decide after a proper hearing. “…Even the MCD could not have done it at middle of the night and the police officers did it. Actually it was police who constituted illegal assembly that night. I don’t know if the sleeping people could constitute assembly ….” argued Jethmalani.
Affidavit of Delhi Police
At this point of time, Ram Jethmalani tore apart averments made in the affidavit filed by Delhi Police. Jethmalani argued that in the affidavit, there are references to the effect that the local people living in the vicinity of Ramlila Maidan are terrorists. Jethmalani slammed the apprehensions of Delhi Police that someone might smuggle a bag of explosives at the venue and there might be a loss of life and limb. Jethmalani also blasted Delhi Police for mentioning Gujarat riots. “…they are now talking of 2002 riots in 2011, all for the purpose of elections. Earlier we used to have a saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely but now we have a saying that power corrupts and fear of losing power corrupts absolutely…” argued Jethmalani.
Order Passed under Section 144
Jethmalani also attacked Delhi Police for poorly drafting order under Section 144. “…If they were apprehensive of a terrorist attack then this is a material fact. Where has this been stated in order under Section 144? This order doesn’t comply with the sections requirements. It is an assault on our common sense and fraud on law. We were not doing anything unlawful…” argued Jethmalani.
Role of home minister P Chidambaram
Attacking Chidambaram in the very beginning of his arugments on this point, Jethmalani said “…Home Minister is responsible for all this and the government as a whole…” Jethmalani drew the attention of the court to the press release issued by the Home Ministry on 8th of June. According to the said release, a decision was taken that Ramdev shall not be allowed to carry on any fast or protest and shall not be allowed to stay in Delhi. “…Are we living in dictatorship or a Nazi rule that Ramdev shall not be allowed to stay in Delhi?” roared Jethmalani
Referring to an interview of Chidambaram, Jethmalani said that Home Minister said the decision in this regard was taken earlier. “…when was this decision taken? The Home Secretary was to file and affidavit but nothing has been filed. The enforcement of the order was deferred as the government was engaged in a dialogue with Ramdev, this means that the decision was taken earlier…” said Jethmalani.
At this point Jethmalani concluded his arguments and said that the people of this country shall express gratitude to the judiciary if they get what has been prayed for.
Questions raised by Judges
At this point of time, the bench asked few questions from U U Lalit who started his arguments on behalf of Delhi Police. Justice Swatantra Kumar asked Lalit to address the court on few issues like whether the use of force was justified? What were the circumstance which led to the action and why the police could not wait till the morning to ask the people to leave the venue? The bench also wanted to know when was the decision to revoke the permission granted to Ramdev was taken by Delhi Police and whether the order issued under section 144 confirms to the conditions laid down under the section.
Arguments of U U Lalit for Delhi Police
At this point of time, U U Lalit started to address the court on the circumstances which led to the Delhi Police action at Ramlila Maidan. Lalit informed the court that no violence was used and only the tear gas shells were used by the police to disburse the crowd. Lalit referred to the fact that Bharat Swabiman Trust had sought permission for not more than five thousand people and that too for holding a Yoga Shivir and not for any protest for fast unto death.
Lalit also informed about various published material of the trust which announced that Ramdev shall be sitting on indefinite fast from 4th of June.
(Proceedings over, matter adjourned to Friday that is 25th November 2011)