R Sedhuraman, Legal Correspondent
New Delhi, March 10. At a time when rail and road blockades are becoming the preferred protest tool of Jats and other agitators across the country, the Supreme Court is in the process of issuing guidelines for the Central and state governments to sternly deal with the protesters.
A Bench of Justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya is hearing a bunch of PILs on the issue. Two of the PILs relate to Jat agitations — one in Haryana in the wake of the police action against those responsible for the anti-Dalit violence in Hisar’s Mirchpur village and another in Uttar Pradesh for demanding job quota for the community.
Another PIL has been filed by former Uttar Pradesh Police chief Prakash Singh in the wake of a prolonged road blockade in Manipur that had snapped surface transport service to the state and created a scarcity of essential commodities.
At one of the hearings, the Bench had asked the Centre to come up with suggestions for dealing with such agitations effectively. In its proposals, the Centre has said that states should swing into action immediately on receipt of intelligence reports on proposed agitations to block rail, road or air traffic.
Such information should be instantly conveyed to the state Home Secretary, who would then direct the Director General of Police to prevent or remove such blockades.
If the agitators could not be dispersed within 12 hours, the state Home Secretary should request his Central counterpart to direct the central forces or any other paramilitary force to initiate “desired preventive steps” immediately to maintain or restore public order within 24 hours.
The state Home Secretary “shall personally supervise” the situation under the direct supervision and control of the Union Home Secretary.
Under the Centre’s proposals, the District Magistrate would assess the damage to public property and take legal steps to recover the loss as if “the same were arrears of land revenue against the delinquents individually”.
The DM would also initiate in the court of the District Judge the mandatory prosecution of persons involved in acts of rioting, destruction of property and other forms of violence. The district court would dispose of the cases within six months.
Ex-police chief Prakash Singh has suggested through his counsel Rohit Singh that if a stir continued beyond 24 hours, the Divisional Commissioner/Range DIG should take charge of the situation. If the agitation persisted for more than three days, the Principal Secretary (Home) or the DGP should intervene. If all these steps failed to yield any result in five days, the Chief Justice of the state High Court should be informed for appropriate orders. The persons or groups responsible for organising the blockade would be penalised by imposing collective fines and filing cases.
The apex court Bench has made it clear that its guidelines would be based on the Centre’s proposals.