(Dr.)Mohan Rao B,
Principal, Manair College of Law, Khammam
An Irish Proverb goes on to say that the beginning of health is sleep. The state of sleep has been described by Homer in the famous epic Iliad as “sleep is the twin of death”. Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher has said that all men are alike when asleep.
Sleep is an unconscious state or condition regularly and naturally assumed by man and other living beings during which the activity of the nervous system is almost or entirely suspended. It is the state of slumber and repose. It is a necessity and not a luxury. It is essential for optimal health and happiness as it directly affects the quality of the life of an individual when awake inducing his mental sharpness, emotional balance, creativity and vitality. It is believed that a person who is sleeping, is half dead. His mental faculties are in an inactive state.
Sleep is, therefore, a biological and essential ingredient of the basic necessities of life. If this sleep is disturbed, the mind gets disoriented and it disrupts the health cycle. . Sleep, therefore, is a self rejuvenating element of our life cycle and is, therefore, part and partial of human life. The state of sleeping is assumed by an individual when he is in a safe atmosphere. It is for this reason that this natural system has been inbuilt by our creator to provide relaxation to a human being. The muscles are relaxed and this cycle has a normal recurrence every night and lasts for several hours. It is so essential that even all our transport systems provide for facilities of sleep while travelling. Sleep is therefore, both, life and inherent liberty which cannot be taken away by any unscrupulous action.
Sleep is a natural process which is inherent in a human being, if disturbed obviously affects basic life. It is for this reason that if a person is deprived of sleep, the effect thereof, is treated to be torturous. Disruption of sleep has a wide range of negative effects. If disruption is brought about in odd hours preventing an individual from getting normal sleep, it also causes energy dis balance, indigestion and also affects cardiovascular health. These symptoms, therefore, make sleep so essential that its deprivation would result in mental and physical torture both. It also impairs the normal functioning and performance of an individual which is compulsory in day-to-day life of a human being. The disruption of sleep is to deprive a person of a basic priority, resulting in adverse metabolic effects. It is a medicine for weariness which if impeded would lead to disastrous results. Deprivation of sleep has tumultuous adverse effects. It causes a stir and disturbs the quiet and peace of an individual’s physical state.
To take away the right of natural rest is also therefore violation of a human right. It becomes a violation of a fundamental right when it is disturbed intentionally, unlawfully and for no justification. To arouse a person suddenly, brings about a feeling of shock and benumbness. The pressure of a sudden awakening results in almost a void of sensation. Such an action, therefore, does affect the basic life of an individual.
‘Suo Motu’ Rescue to Protect Fundamental Rights
Recalling Paster Niemoller’s statement, ‘‘when they arrested my neighbour I did not protest! when they arrested men and women in opposite houses I did not protest!! when they finally came for me there was no body left to protest….,’ we may applaud the suo moto cognizance of the Supreme Court as guarantor and savior of the fundamental rights to the people of India.
In Re-Ramlila Maidan Incident Dt . v Home Secretary, case on 4th June, 2011, Baba Ramdev’s hunger strike began with the motto of `Bhrashtachar Mitao Satyagraha. Baba Ramdev had been granted permission to hold satyagraha at Jantar Mantar, of course, with a very limited number of persons. Despite that, the crowd at the Ramlila Maidan swelled to more than fifty thousand. No yoga training was held for the entire day. At about 1.00 p.m., Baba Ramdev decided to march to Jantar Mantar for holding a dharna along with the entire gathering. Keeping in view the fact that Jantar Mantar could not accommodate such a large crowd, the permission for holding the dharna was withdrawn by the authorities.
Negotiations took place between Baba Ramdev and some of the ministers on telephone, but, Baba Ramdev revived his earlier condition of time-bound action, an ordinance to bring black money back and the items missing on his initial list of demands. At about 11.15 p.m., it is stated that Centre’s emissary reached Baba Ramdev at Ramlila Maidan with the letter assuring a law to declare black money hoarded abroad as a national asset. The messenger kept his mobile on so the Government negotiators could listen to Baba Ramdev and his aides. The conversation with Baba Ramdev convinced the Government that Baba Ramdev will not wind up his protest. At about 11.30 p.m., a team of Police, led by the Joint Commissioner of Police, met Baba Ramdev and informed him that the permission to hold the camp had been withdrawn and that he would be detained. At about 12.30 a.m., a large number of CRPF, Delhi Police force and Rapid Action Force personnel, totaling approximately to 5000 (as stated in the notes of the Amicus. However, from the record it appears to be 1200), reached the Ramlila Maidan. At that time, the protestors were peacefully sleeping.
Thereafter, at about 1.10 a.m., the Police reached the dais/platform to take Baba Ramdev out, which action was resisted by his supporters. At 1.25 a.m., Baba Ramdev jumped into the crowd from the stage and disappeared amongst his supporters. He, thereafter, climbed on the shoulders of one of his supporters, exhorting women to form a barricade around him. A scuffle between the security forces and the supporters of Baba Ramdev took place and eight rounds of teargas shells were fired. By 2.10 a.m., almost all the supporters had been driven out of the Ramlila Maidan.
The Apex Court passed the verdict after taking ‘suo motu’ cognizance of media reports showing the brutality of police action against the followers of Ramdev who were sleeping. The Court speaking through Justice Swatantar Kumar and Justice Chauhan gauged the dimensions of legal provisions in relation to the exercise of jurisdiction by the empowered officer in passing an order under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. While appreciating that there might be a reason available to impose prohibitory orders calling upon an assembly to disperse, the Court opined that there did not appear to be any plausible reason for the police to resort to blows on a sleeping crowd and to throw them out of their encampments abruptly. The affidavits and explanation given did not disclose as to why the police could not wait till morning and provide a reasonable time to this crowd to disperse peacefully. The undue haste caused huge disarray and resulted in a catastrophe that was witnessed on Media and Television throughout the country.
According to the Court, a person cannot be presumed to be engaged in a criminal activity or an activity to disturb peace of mind when asleep. Justice Chauhan opined, ‘To presume that a person was scheming to disrupt public peace while asleep would be unjust and would be entering into the dreams of that person. ‘I am bewildered to find out as to how such declaration of the intention to impose the prohibition was affected on a sleeping crowd.’
There was no reasonable explanation for the gravity or the urgent situation requiring such an emergent action at this dark hour of midnight. Therefore, in the absence of any such justification the Court had no option but to deprecate such action and it also casts a serious doubt about the existence of the sufficiency of reasons for such action. The incident in Ram Leela Maidan incident was held ‘an example of a weird expression of the desire of a tyrannical mind to threaten peaceful life suddenly for no justification’. The Court viewed that coupled with what was understood of sleep would make it clear that the precipitate action was nothing but a clear violation of human rights and a definite violation of procedure for achieving the end of dispersing a crowd.
The Supreme Court analyzed Article 355 of the Constitution of India provides that the Government of every State would act in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. The primary task of the State is to provide security to all citizens without violating human dignity. Powers conferred upon the statutory authorities have to be, perforce, admitted. Nonetheless, the very essence of constitutionalist is also that no organ of the State may arrogate to itself powers beyond what is specified in the Constitution.
Disturbing Sleep Violates Fundamental Right
‘An individual is entitled to sleep as comfortably and as freely as he breathes. Sleep is essential for a human being to maintain the delicate balance of health necessary for its very existence and survival.’ Sleep is, therefore, a fundamental and basic requirement without which the existence of life itself would be in peril. To disturb sleep, therefore, would amount to torture which is now accepted as a violation of human right. It would be similar to a third degree method which at times is sought to be justified as a necessary police action to extract the truth out of an accused involved in heinous and cold- blooded crimes. It is also a device adopted during warfare where prisoners of war and those involved in espionage are subjected to treatments depriving them of normal sleep.
Can such an attempt be permitted or justified in the given circumstances of the present case? Judicially and on the strength of impartial logic, the answer has to be in the negative as a sleeping crowd cannot be included within the bracket of an unlawful category unless there is sufficient material to brand it as such. The facts as uncovered and the procedural mandate having been blatantly violated, is malice in law and also the part played by the police and administration shows the outrageous behaviour which cannot be justified by law in any civilized society. For the reasons aforesaid, Dr. B.S. Chauhan concurred with the directions issued by Justice Swatantar Kumar with a forewarning to the Respondents State and the Police to prevent any repetition of such hasty and unwarranted act affecting the safe living conditions of the citizens/persons in the country.
Criticism against the Ram Leela Maidan Judgment
Delivering a lecture on “Jurisprudence of Constitutional Structure”, S.H.Kapadia, [former] the Chief Justice of India, was making an apparent reference to the recent Supreme Court judgment in the Ramlila Maidan police action against Ramdev’s supporters in which “Right to Sleep” was declared a fundamental right. The C.J. stated, ‘Now, we have included right to sleep, where are we going? It is not a criticism. Is it capable of being enforced? When you expand the right, the judge must explore the enforceability. “Questions which judges must ask are if it is capable of being enforced. Judges must apply enforceability test. Today, if a judge proposes a policy matter, government says we are not going to follow. Are you going by way of contempt or implement it?” he asked. He also wondered what would happen if the executive refuses to comply with judiciary’s directives that may not be enforceable. “Right to life, we have said, includes environmental protection, right to live with dignity. “Judges should not govern this country. We need to go by strict principle. Whenever you lay down a law, it should not interfere with governance. We are not accountable to people. Objectivity, certainty enshrined in the basic principles of the Constitution has to be given weightage,” he said. Kapadia said judges should go strictly by the Constitutional principles which has clearly demarcate the separation of powers among the judiciary, the legislature and the executive.
With due respects to the Justice, the opinions must be taken as personal. The assertions that ‘Whenever you lay down a law, it should not interfere with governance. We are not accountable to people,’ -is untenable. The Court is expected to interfere even with the governance whenever there is i) violation of rule of Law, ii) an ultravires/excessive actions of the power conferred by Law, iii) the basic and fundamental human freedoms are violated and iv) the basic structures of the Constitution are deviated. The Constitutional principles envisage judicial intervention interpretative function and diligent interference for upholding the Constitution and the Rule of Law. The Courts are also accountable to people though not directly. If, judgments are given based on unscrupulous principles only to support a government in power, there would be serious consequences. [ as Justice Krishna Iyyer aptly stated ] the Court is also a Political Institution [ meant to do good to people.]
The judgment of the Supreme Court was indeed like a lullaby for the citizens of the country in general. The State cannot adversely affect the natural and personal freedom implicitly read by the Court to include right to sleep.
S. H. Kapadia’s criticism is redundant. The criticism is not even an ‘obiter dictum’. Therefore, fortunately, it is not binding on the Courts. As far as the enforceability of the right to sleep is concerned, with such laudable judgments, excessive State/police actions can be controlled. Pursuant to the judgment, the Police shall not resort to midnight operations akin to Dr. Karunanidhi’s arrest. Lest, the citizens should get right to remedy for such late night police operations. The ‘judicial right’ expanding the new vistas would open scope and hope for the needy and deserving indigent public would get in future, their rights realized through the judgment.
However, the Supreme Court was not ‘definitely dealing in Ram Leela Maidan Case, with the rights of homeless persons who may claim right to sleep on footpath or public premises…’ but restricted the case only to the extent as under what circumstances a sleeping person may be disturbed. The Apex Court categorically maintained that the State authorities cannot deprive a person of that right to sleep anywhere and at all times. The verdict creates a hope for many homeless pavement dwellers and reminds the governments’ responsibility to protect the right to sleep of the indigent, homeless orphans, pavement/street dwellers including the vulnerable women, adolescents, kids and the aged.