New Delhi, Feb 23 (PTI): A court here has questioned Delhi Police's decision to impose prohibitory orders during a protest by Arvind Kejriwal and other members of Aam Aadmi Party at the Prime Minister's residence and other places here last year.
The court asked the police on Saturday to explain what was the “emergency” of imposing Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) when the protest on the coal blocks allocation scam in August last year was on outside the PM's house, and said since it is the right of citizens to protest, what was “illegal” in it.
“What was the emergency? Tell me what information you (police) had about threat to law and order there and you imposed Section 144 of the CrPC?” Metropolitan Magistrate Jay Thareja said while hearing arguments on a plea of Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and 23 others, who sought discharge in the case on Saturday.
The case relates to rioting, unlawful assembly and use of force to obstruct public servants from discharging their duty and damaging public property filed against them after protests on August 26 last year.
The court also pulled up the police for not investigating the issue of violation of prohibitory orders.
“You have not investigated properly the issue of Section 144 of CrPC and they have been booked for violating this provision. You want me to accept your documents as it is. In every controversial case, you say put the accused on trial, investigation is going on and will submit details later on,” the judge said.
Additional Public Prosecutor Rajat Kalra said the Assistant Commissioner of Police who had issued prohibitory orders would be explaining the necessity during the trial of the case.
All the 26 accused, on the last date of hearing, were released by the court after they appeared before it following summons issued against them in connection with three separate rioting cases.
Kejriwal and others were released by the court on an undertaking that they will appear before it to face trial in the case after they had refused to apply for bail.
The court also sought detailed response of prosecution on March 7 on the applications filed by the accused seeking discharge in the case on the ground that the police had falsely implicated them to “harass” them.
In his arguments, Bhushan said that many cameras of various TV channels were present during the protest but the police had failed to produce any video evidence along with the charge sheet.
“This shows that the police has mala fide intention to suppress the facts before this court,” he argued.
During the hearing, the court asked Bhushan to assist it in finding out whether it has power to direct the prosecution at this stage for further investigation in the case.
“The FIR is filed by police authorities with malicious and mala fide intention to harass the accused persons by dragging them into the exhaustive criminal trial, so that they can be stopped from participating in any protest and demonstration against the wrongful act of the government in future,” the plea filed through advocate Somnath Bharti alleged.
The application said that the charge sheet filed by the police is “devoid” of any substantial evidence and fails to establish a prima facie case against the accused and is just an attempt to cause harm to their reputation.
Bhushan, an accused in the case, argued that imposition of section 144 by Delhi Police was “illegal” and was in violation of the orders passed by the Supreme Court.
Bhushan also said that section 144 is a provision that is meant to take care of an emergency situation only.
“How can the police apprehend that there was threat to law and order if we will march to PM's residence? We have been holding protests during our anti corruption movement for a long time and nowhere we have indulged in any violent protest,” he said.
He added that the object of the protest was to carry out a peaceful demonstration in front of the residences of the Prime Minister, the Chairperson of UPA and the President of the main Opposition Party in protest of the coal block scam.
According to the charge sheet, on August 26 last year, the accused had violated Sec 144 and had staged protest outside the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi against the alleged coal block allocation scam case.
Police had said that the accused had also damaged public property during the protest and some of their senior officers were injured.
Police had registered three FIRs against them under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, which deal with rioting, unlawful assembly and use of force to obstruct public servants from discharging their duty as well as section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.