BENGALURU: The Karnataka High Court on Thursday termed as illegal the prohibitory orders imposed under Section 144 of CrPC by the City Police Commissioner in December 2019 in the light of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in Bengaluru.
The orders were passed “without application of mind” and without following due procedures, the court noted. Giving reasons for upholding the arguments of the petitioners that there was no application of mind by the Police Commissioner (Bhaskar Rao) before imposing restrictions, a division bench of the High Court said he had not recorded the reasons, except reproducing the contents of letters addressed to him by the Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCPs).
The state government had contended that prohibitory orders were passed based on reports submitted by the DCPs who expressed apprehension about anti-social elements creating law and order problems and damaging public property by taking advantage of the anti-CAA protests.
The High Court bench said the Police Commissioner should have conducted inquiry as stated by the Supreme Court to check the reasons cited by the DCPs who submitted identical reports. Except for this, there were no facts laid out by the Police Commissioner, the court said.
“There is complete absence of reasons. If the order indicated that the Police Commissioner was satisfied by the apprehension of DCPs, it would have been another matter,” it said.
“The apex court has held that it must record the reasons for imposition of restrictions and there has to be a formation of opinion by the district magistrate. Only then can the extraordinary powers conferred on the district magistrate can be exercised. This procedure was not followed. Hence, exercise of power under Section 144 by the commissioner, as district magistrate, was not at all legal”, the bench said.
Order not applicable in general: Court
“We hold that the order dated December 18, 2019 is illegal and cannot stand judicial scrutiny in terms of the apex court’s orders in the Ramlila Maidan case and Anuradha Bhasin case,” the HC bench said while upholding the arguments of Prof Ravivarma Kumar, who appeared for some of the petitioners.
Partly allowing a batch of public interest petitions questioning the imposition of prohibitory orders and cancelling the permission granted for protesters in the city, the bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Hemant Chandangoudar observed that, unfortunately, in the present case, there was no indication of application of mind in passing prohibitory orders.
The bench said the observation was confined to this order only and it cannot be applicable in general. If there is a similar situation (necessitating imposition of restrictions), the state is not helpless, the court said.
COMMISSIONER CANNOT RELY ON DG&IGP
The bench said although the Police Commissioner is subordinate to the DG&IGP, he does not act on the top police officer’s opinions as he was passing the prohibitory order as District Magistrate. Hence, he cannot reply upon the opinion of the top police officer, as Section 144 takes away the fundamental rights of citizens