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Delhi’s Patiala House Court yesterday, discharged Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and other volunteers of erstwhile India Against Corruption (IAC), of charges ranging from rioting to destruction of property, during a protest in 2012.
The volunteers of IAC were holding a demonstration against the coal scam outside the residence of the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. The police had imposed Section 144 of the Cr.P.C. and had deployed barricades and water cannons.
Despite the same, the protesters had raised slogans and moved towards the Prime Minister’s House.
The police alleged that Arvind Kejriwal started provoking the protesters and without paying heed to the warning by the police, the protesters kept moving towards the PM House. Thereafter, an FIR was registered and a charge sheet was filed against all accused.
Kejriwal and his associates later moved an application for discharge arguing that the imposition of Section 144 was itself bad in law because it was not mentioned as to why the provision was enforced.
The Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal observed that the order imposing Section 144 did not record any reason for the imposition of the same. Festivals and other demonstrations by IAC were given to be the reasons for imposing Section 144 in the supplementary charge sheet.
The Court held that,
“The fact that the volunteers of India against corruption were holding a demonstration during those days does not seem to be a valid ground to impose the provision of section 144 Cr.PC. No violence in their earlier protests has been reported as a reason for imposing prohibitions under section 144 CrPC.
… Section 144 Cr.P.C. is intended to serve a public purpose and protect public order. This power vested in the executive is to be invoked after the satisfaction of the authority that there is need for immediate prevention or that speedy remedy is desirable and directions, as contemplated, are necessary to protect the interest of others or to prevent danger to human life, health or safety or disturbance of public tranquility or a riot or an affray.”
The Court also noted that the police did not comply with the Standing Order of the Supreme Court with regard to the imposition of Section 144. According to the Standing Order, the police should display a banner indicating promulgation of Section 144 and use a public address system to advise leaders and demonstrators to remain peaceful.
The Additional Metropolitan Magistrate observed that the situation demands balancing the fundamental rights of citizens to assemble peacefully and to exercise their right of speech and expression on one hand and the right of public authorities to maintain law and order on the other.
“But since the assembly, in this case, was not an unlawful assembly and has not committed any offence, I have no doubt in my mind to opt for upholding the fundamental rights of citizens under Article 19 of the constitution and finding that neither the prohibition of section 144 CrPC was valid nor validly communicated.”
Read the order below.