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article 19 part 4

Supreme Court of India

Re-Ramlila Maidan Incident Dt ... vs Home Secretary And Ors on 23 February, 2012


(1) In discharge of its judicial functions, the courts do not strike down the law or quash the State action with the aim of obstructing democracy in the name of preserving democratic process, but as a contribution to the governmental system, to make it fair, judicious and transparent. The courts take care of interests which are not sufficiently defended elsewhere and/or of the victims of State action, in exercise of its power of judicial review.

In my considered view, in the facts of the present case, the State and the Police could have avoided this tragic incident by exercising greater restraint, patience and resilience. The orders were passed by the authorities in undue haste and were executed with force and overzealousness, as if an emergent situation existed. The decision to forcibly evict the innocent public sleeping at the Ramlila grounds 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 restriction imposed on the right to freedom of speech and expression was unsupported by cogent reasons and material facts. It was an invasion of the liberties and exercise of fundamental freedoms.

The members of the assembly had legal protections available to them even under the provisions of the Cr.P.C. Thus, the restriction was unreasonable and unwarrantedly executed.

The action demonstrated the might of the State and was an assault on the very basic democratic values enshrined in our Constitution. Except in cases of emergency or the situation unexceptionably demanding so, reasonable notice/time for execution of the order or compliance with the directions issued in the order itself or in furtherance thereto is the pre-requisite. It was primarily an error of performance of duty both by the police and respondent No.4 but the ultimate sufferer was the public at large.

(2) From the facts and circumstances that emerge from the record before this Court, 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, having regard to the sensitivity and perniciously perilous consequences that could have resulted, if such harsh measures had not been taken forthwith.

(3) The State has a duty to ensure fulfillment of the freedom enshrined in our Constitution and so it has a duty to protect itself against certain unlawful actions. It may, therefore, enact laws which would ensure such protection. The rights and the liberties are not absolute in nature and uncontrolled in operation. While placing the two, the rule of justice and fair play requires that State action should neither be unjust nor unfair, lest it attracts the vice of unreasonableness or arbitrariness, resultantly vitiating the law, the procedur