New Delhi, Feb 24 The Supreme Court Thursday came down heavily on Delhi Police for the midnight crackdown on Ramdev and his followers here last year in which a woman was killed but said the yoga guru was also guilty "of contributory negligence". Police said they would act against the erring officers and Ramdev vowed to launch more protests.
The court awarded ad hoc compensation of Rs.5 lakh to the family of Haryana woman Rajbala who suffered spinal injuries and died after police assaulted scores of sleeping men and women at Ramlila ground here on the night of June 4-5, 2011.
Judges Swatanter Kumar and B.S. Chauhan said: "Police could have avoided this tragic incident by exercising greater restraint, patience and resilience."
Justice Kumar said that the police action was "an invasion of the exercise of fundamental freedom". He warned police to desist from any repetition of "such hasty and unwarranted act" affecting the safety of people.
The court directed the police to initiate cases against its personnel and Ramdev supporters who contributed to the violence and destruction of public property.
The government said it will study the apex court's critical observations on the Delhi Police, even as the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party blamed the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government for the events at Ramlila ground.
Buoyed by the Supreme Court's censure of the government, Ramdev vowed to launch more such protests.
"Till the time black money from abroad is not brought back and declared as national asset our agitation will continue. I will soon return to Delhi for another agitation," Ramdev said.
The court also awarded Rs.50,000 to those who suffered serious injuries in the crackdown and Rs.25,000 to the other injured. Ramdev's trust was asked to bear 25 percent of the compensation.
The court accused police of demonstrating the might of the state, and that the orders to disperse Ramdev and his supporters were passed in undue haste and executed with brute force.
"The restriction imposed on the right to freedom of speech and expression was unsupported by cogent reasons and material facts," the court said.
The court also held Baba Ramdev "guilty of contributory negligence".
"Due to the stature 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 to have insisted on continuing with his activity at the place," Justice Kumar said.
Ramdev had called his meeting to also denounce growing corruption. The same Ramlila ground was later virtually taken over by Anna Hazare and his team also to campaign against corruption.
After forcibly dispersing Ramdev's supporters, the yoga guru was forced to leave Delhi. He returned to his base in Haridwar.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said the government, including the home ministry, will study the apex court observations on police.
Ramdev should also take note of the court's observations that he was negligent, did not have control over the crowd, and ran from the podium causing ruckus at the Ramlila ground, she said.
The BJP said the central government - which controls Delhi Police - and the Congress were responsible for the action.
"The ruling raises some questions: If Delhi Police is responsible, how come home ministry is not responsible," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told reporters.
Delhi Police Commissioner B.K. Gupta promised disciplinary action against erring officers and the yoga guru's followers.
"Any order passed by the Supreme Court will be followed," said Gupta, adding that Ramdev's followers had violated the law.
Rajbala's husband said: "I am happy with the Supreme Court verdict, but we don't want 25 percent compensation which Baba Ramdev has been directed to provide us."
He was glad with the court directing disciplinary action against the erring policemen.
Team Anna member Kiran Bedi said "The question is whether the Delhi Police commissioner took an independent decision. They have to answer whether they took action at the behest of the union home ministry and whether it was a verbal or written order from the ministry."