2011 Ramlila crackdown
New Delhi, February 23
A Bench comprising Justices BS Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar ordered a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of a 51-year-old woman, Raj Bala, who had died in the incident, besides Rs 50,000 each to the grievously injured and Rs 25,000 each to other injured persons.
The government and Ramdev, who was on a fast against corruption, should share the burden of paying the compensation amount in the ratio of three-to-one, the Bench ordered in a 250-page judgment.
“The decision to forcibly evict the innocent public sleeping at the Ramlila Maidan in the midnight of 4th/5th June, 2011, whether taken by the police independently or in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs is amiss and suffers from the element of arbitrariness and abuse of power to some extent….
“The action demonstrated the might of the state and was an assault on the very basic democratic values enshrined in our Constitution,” the Bench said.
The SC made it clear that based on the material placed before the Bench, it was “unable to hold” that the eviction order passed by the authorities and its execution by the police “are mala fide in law or are an abdication of power and functions by the police.”
The action partially suffered from the “vice of arbitrariness but every arbitrary action necessarily need not be mala fide,” the Bench clarified.
At the same time, the Bench found fault with Ramdev for asking his followers to resist eviction, instead of pleading with them to disperse peacefully.
If one were to go by the “stature that Baba Ramdev enjoyed with his followers, it was expected of him to request the gathering to disperse peacefully and leave the Ramlila Maidan. He ought not have insisted on continuing with his activity at the place of occurrence,” the Bench held in separate but concurring verdicts.
Ramdev and his Trust “could have obviously avoided the confrontation between the police and the members of the gathering at the Ramlila Maidan,” the SC observed.
On the other hand, the restriction imposed on the right to freedom of speech and expression was not supported by cogent reasons and material facts. It was an invasion of liberties and exercise of fundamental freedom.
Except in the cases of emergency or where the situation unexceptionally demanded so, reasonable notice/time should have been given for executing the eviction order.
“It is evident that it was not a case of emergency. The police have failed to establish that a situation had arisen where there was imminent need to intervene,” the Bench pointed out. At the same time, Ramdev and his Trust were “guilty of contributory negligence. The Trust and its representatives ought to have discharged their legal and moral duty.