SC lifts ban on rallies, dharnas at Jantar Mantar, Boat Club

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today lifted a blanket ban on rallies, dharnas or sit-ins at the Jantar Mantar and Boat Club areas, saying there could not be an “absolute” ban on protests in such localities.

The top court also asked the Centre to frame guidelines within two months for according sanctions to such events.
A bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said, “There is a need to strike a balance between conflicting rights such as the right to protest and the right of citizens to live peacefully.”

“There cannot be a complete or absolute ban on holding protests at places like Jantar Mantar and Boat Club (near India Gate),” the bench added, while directing the Centre to frame guidelines on the matter.
The verdict came on a batch of petitions, including one filed by the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, an NGO, challenging the decision of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to ban all kinds of protests at the said places.

The top court had earlier observed, “When, during elections, politicians can go among the public to seek votes, why can’t people come near their offices after the polls to protest.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO and other petitioners, had contended that the Centre had completely banned protests or assembly of people in whole of central Delhi and imposed section 144, CrPC permanently in the guise of avoiding traffic obstruction.
He had said the authorities had asked the protesters to go to the Ramlila Maidan to stage agitations, while there were several court verdicts that recognised the “people’s right to protest”.
“The protests have to be near the seat of power, so that the people can make their voices heard,” Bhushan had submitted, while referring to a Delhi High Court verdict, recognising the people’s right to protest at the gate of a factory, so long it did not affect the traffic.

Earlier, the Centre had justified the continuous imposition of prohibitory orders under section 144, CrPC in central Delhi, which houses most of the government offices and VIP residences.
The Centre’s counsel had told the apex court that this was an era of “professional protesters”, who liked to protest outside Parliament or the president’s or prime minister’s house to make their voices heard.
He had added that the government had to take holistic steps while dealing with such protests, rallies and dharnas to ensure that peace and harmony prevailed in an area.

The Centre, while justifying the permanent imposition of prohibitory orders in its affidavit, had referred to over a dozen instances when protests had turned violent and the police had to use teargas shells and water cannons to control the mobs at the Jantar Mantar and Boat Club areas.

The plea moved by the NGO had challenged the complete ban on assemblies and protests in the central and New Delhi areas imposed by the NGT.

It had claimed that there could not be a continuous imposition of prohibitory orders in entire central Delhi, which was an emergency provision to be used when there was an apprehension of violence or law-and-order problems.

It had said it would have been understandable if the government’s decision to impose prohibitory orders was based on a specific intelligence input or apprehension of a protest turning violent.
The NGT had, on October 5 last year, banned all protests and dharnas around the historic Jantar Mantar here, which had been a hotspot of many agitations over the past decades, saying such activities violated environmental laws.
The green panel had said the State had totally failed to protect the right of a citizen to enjoy a pollution-free environment at the Jantar Mantar Road area, which was located close to Connaught Place at the heart of the national capital.
It had added that it was the duty of the State to ensure that the right of the people to live a peaceful and comfortable life was not infringed by those who created noise pollution in the name of their right to freedom of speech and expression, which could never be unlimited.
The tribunal had directed the authorities to shift the protesters to an alternative site at the Ramleela Grounds in Ajmeri Gate “forthwith”.

It had also said those participating in protests and raising slogans through loudspeakers had no right to compel the people living in the area to tolerate it day and night.

Jantar Mantar bungalow never alloted to Agnivesh, NGO: Centre

Jantar Mantar bungalow never alloted to Agnivesh, NGO: Centre
Jantar Mantar bungalow never alloted to Agnivesh, NGO: Centre

The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that its records show a bungalow on Jantar Mantar Road in the heart of the national capital was allotted to the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Smarak Trust and was not allocated to either activist Swami Agnivesh or his NGO.

The response of the Ministry of Urban Development to a query under the Right to Information Act said the records suggested that as on April 30, 1977, bungalow number 7 at the Jantar Mantar Road was in the name of the trust.

“As per records the property is not allocated to Bandhua Mukti Morcha at any point of time. As per the records, the property was not allocated to Swami Agnivesh in the past,” the ministry said.

The RTI response said that there was no complaint with regard to the property during the 2010-2015 period.

“No such complaint indicating illegal possession and misuse is found in the records of property no. 7, Jantar Mantar Road, New Delhi,” it said.

The RTI reply was referred to before a bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru which was hearing a plea filed by activist Ajay Gautam against an October 2016 order of the Central Information Commission (CIC).

The CIC had denied him the information sought on the ground he was not a lessee of the property.

Agnivesh, however, said that his NGO Bandhua Mukti Morcha is operating from the bungalow.

The court considered the response of the Centre and disposed of the plea of Gautam.

Gautam, in an RTI application, had sought information whether the bungalow was ever alloted to Bandhua Mukti Morcha or its national president Agnivesh.

The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Land and Development of Delhi had failed to provide the information, according to him.

( Source – PTI )

Justice Verma report’s potency being diluted: Shabana Azmi

Actor-activist Shabana Azmi accused the government of “diluting the potency” of Justice Verma Committee report on sexual crimes by “cherry-picking” its recommendations.

“Women activist were happy about the suggestions, but government diluted the potency of the recommendations by cherry-picking suggestions. We must keep pressure on the government so that it implements the report in its totality,” Azmi, 62, said at a demonstration in support of the committee’s recommendations at Jantar Mantar here.

Around 70 people had gathered for the protest at the 18th century observatory organised by rights groups All India Progressive Women’s Association, Apne-Aap Women Worldwide and All India Students’ Association (AISA).

“The way some of the suggestions from the report have been dissolved reflects the patriarchal mindset of our society. Even the attitude of Delhi police and politicians following the December 16 gang-rape case was unacceptable. We have to note that it is the time to shift the blame and shift the shame,” Azmi told reporters.

“We have to talk of a new society where women can rub shoulders with men. When we have to talk of changing mindset, we should remember the change has to be from all walks of society,” she told.

AIPWA secretary Kavita Krishnan said politicians were afraid to bring an ordinance on martial rape.

“We’re made to believe that women are a property of someone else. They are protecting politicians, police officials and bureaucrats by giving them impunity. Why is government uncomfortable to revoke impunity of seniors officials accused of sexual violence?” she told IANS.

“The government has been brushing aside incidents of sexual violence involving ministers by saying such issues should not to be politicised. But they should know such issues will be a point of contention in the coming elections,” Krishnan told.

The Justice J.S. Verma Committee was set up by the government to review laws to provide for speedier justice and enhanced punishment in cases of aggravated sexual assault.

The panel was set up in the wake of outrage over the gang-rape of a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist in Delhi.

The union cabinet later approved an ordinance to amend and make stronger existing laws to curb crimes against women as suggested by the panel.

Delhi gangrape: Protests held across the country

Over the gang-rape of a 23-year-old student all angry protests erupted across India with the national capital being the epicentre of demonstrations outside Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s residence, Police Headquarters and at India Gate.

BJP’s Delhi unit also staged protests at Jantar Mantar.

Water cannons had been used by the Police to disperse the protesters outside Dikshit’s residence when they tried to bring down metal barricades.

Hundreds of slogan-shouting people gathered at on India Gate evening to protest against the brutal rape of the paramedical student in Delhi demanding strong action against the accused.

Outraged people condemning the gang-rape on the girl student in a moving bus on Sunday night also staged protests in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Chennai among other cities. As cold winds blew, old and young, men and women started gathering at India Gate at around 5:00 pm and the numbers grew in large within an hour and they carried on with the campaign for hours. The protesters held candles and shouted slogans demanding stringent punishment for the perpetrators.

The outrage among the protesters was so intense that one group of over 200 people broke away from the demonstration at the War memorial and started marching towards the high security zone in Raisina Hills where Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Prime Minister’s Office(PMO), Home, Defence, External Affairs and Finance are located, taking police by surprise.

The agitated group managed to reach near South Block where they demanded they be allowed to meet Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde or Home Secretary R K Singh.

Police immediately swung into action barricading Raisina Hills. A large number of policemen were also rushed to the spot.
Demanding stern action against the six accused, scores of protesters associated with All India Students’ Association (AISA), All India Democratic Womens’ Association (AIDWA) and other organisations staged protest in front of the residence of Sheila Dikshit and Police Headquarters.

“My body my right my city my right,” was an inscription in one of the scores of placards carried by the protesters. “We want equal rights for women,” said another placard.

Gang-rape case: Delhi Police Commissioner meets Shinde

A meeting of Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar held  in the wake of the brutal gang-rape of a girl in Delhi during which it was decided that a drive will be launched to ensure removal of tinted glasses and curtains from buses.

It was also decided that the mobile number and licence number of drivers will be displayed in bold on buses.

The meeting comes a day after Congress president Sonia Gandhi shot off strong-worded letters to Home Minister Shinde and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, saying it was a “matter of shame” that such incidents happen with painful regularity.

The girl was raped by six men in a moving bus, which had tinted glass and curtains on it on Sunday night.

Bus owners will be held liable for parking buses. Practise of drivers parking bus at their place will be stopped.

Police has also been asked to get all details about private bus drivers, who are on contract with schools.

Meanwhile, there were protests against the incident at Police Headquarters and Jantar Mantar.

According to the doctors, the girl continues to be in critical state.

New constitution sought to check corruption

On Sunday an apolitical organisation held a debate to seek a new constitution to eradicate corruption.

Dev Nandan said that in order to prevent the nation from “further annihilation, a new constitution is necessary”, at the “Jan Samvidhan Sabha” at Jantar Mantar, president of Prism (Prototype Revolutionary Innovative Sankranti Movement)

He said. “It should be a constitution which must represent properly the general will, end all the discrimination of caste, region and religion and not work for a particular section but for the whole society”

Nandan said, “Such a constitution should be so self-evident that no one could give one’s own interpretation and it should also be so simple and clear that even a layman should understand it.”

Speakers in the debate highlighted the need for a “new constitution” to help check corruption, crime, and unemployment and increase the quality of education and infrastructure.

Nandan said that the “new constitution should also define free education, free medical treatment, free justice, security and right to livelihood not only as fundamental right but also a duty of the government”.

Six Delhi Metro stations to remain shut on Sunday

Six Metro stations in central Delhi will be closed for most part of the day on Sunday, an apparent precautionary step following a call by erstwhile Team Anna to gherao residences of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and BJP chief Nitin Gadkari over the coal block allocation issue.

Central Secretariat, Udyog Bhawan, Patel Chowk, Race Course, Jor Bagh and Khan Market stations will remain closed from 8am to 6pm on Sunday, a Delhi Metro spokesman said.

However, interchange of passengers from Line 2 to Line 6 will be allowed at Central Secretariat station.

The spokesman said the decision was taken as per directions received from the Delhi Police.

The stations fall near and close to the residences of Prime Minister and Gadkari.

Accusing Congress and BJP of having hand-in-glove on the coal block allocation issue, social activist Arvind Kejriwal had yesterday announced gherao of the residences of Singh and Gadkari.

“Congress and BJP have got together to loot Rs. 1.86 lakh crore in coal scam. (There will be) gherao of Prime Minister’s and Nitin Gadkari’s residences. Let us assemble at Jantar Mantar on August 26 (at) 10am,” activist Arvind Kejriwal had tweeted on Thursday.

Delhi all set for its first Slutwalk

The virtual world was Saturday abuzz with last minute invitations, even as preparations were in full swing for the capital’s first Slut Walk or ‘Besharmi Morcha’ Sunday — a campaign to protest the random use of the word ‘slut’ and sexual violence against women.

The official page of the campaign on Facebook, with over 1,450 members, had the message loud and clear: “All set for tomorrow.”

While the route of the walk has been shortened and the event will be a toned-down version of its international counterpart, the organisers have asked supporters to get creative and make their own slogans.

“Make your own slogans, bring colourful placards to the walk. Say what you want,” posted Umang Sabharwal, the organiser.

Slut Walks have become a global phenomenon to protest against sexual violence after a police officer in Toronto caused outrage by stating in a speech to university students that women should avoid “dressing like sluts” to avoid being victimised.

“We have shortened our initial route and are now starting the walk from the Free Church to YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) all the way to Jantar Mantar (in central Delhi). We have taken permission from the Delhi Police,” Mishika Singh, one of the organisers, told.

Slut Walks across the globe see women dress in skimpy clothing to challenge the mindset that victims of sexual violence should be blamed for the assault on them.

“The name Besharmi Morcha was keeping in mind the Indian target audience,” added Singh.

The supporters seemed excited to make the event a colourful one. The walk starts at 10.30 a.m. and ends at 12.30 p.m.

“Countdown starts! Sunday we will make our point clear. Full support to slut walk,” wrote one of the supporters Alexander Will.

Indians continue to support Hazare through SMSes

Despite the recent controversies surrounding civil society members of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee, support for Anna Hazare’s anti-graft campaign continues unabated, as evident from the thousands of SMSes pouring in from across the country, the organisers said Tuesday.

An SMS that read – ‘Do you want to volunteer for Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption (in support of strong anti-corruption law)? If yes, please SMS back on this number’ – was sent to 3,50,000 Delhiites Saturday and 55,000 of them replied, said an official from India Against Corruption (IAC), the organisation spearheading the campaign.

A similar SMS was sent in Mumbai to over 1,00,000 people, and 10,000 responded.

‘Excitement is building up in Bangalore, Mysore and other cities as Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh, among others, are all set to visit them for public consultations on the Jan Lokpal Bill,’ the IAC official said.

We are getting an indication that crowds of between 10,000 and 50,000 people would be present in Mysore and Bangalore respectively, the official added.

Numerous organisations, professionals, and others are contacting IAC centres across the country to pledge their support and offer assistance to the movement.

‘A public march will be held from Jantar Mantar to India Gate on May 1 at 5 p.m. to express support for the joint drafting committee,’ added the official.

Government’s nod to joint panel not end of struggle: Kejriwal

The central government’s acceptance of a joint committee to frame a strong anti-graft legislation is not the end of the struggle as the bill has to be passed by parliament where many “corrupt leaders” are present, social activist Arvind Kejriwal said on Friday.

Addressing the gathering at Jantar Mantar where social reformer Anna Hazare has for the past four days staged his indefinite fast, Kejriwal termed the government’s acceptance of their demands as a “victory of the people of India”.

He, however, said the protesters will only disperse after the text of the government notification reaches them and in case, the government tries any trickery, the protesters will re-assemble at Jantar Mantar.

“The people will be consulted at every step and all the decisions made by the joint committee will be shared,” he said.

Kejriwal also said the people’s struggle would only end after the Lokpal Bill is passed by parliament, where there are “many corrupt people” who would try to oppose the legislation.

He called on people from all across India to gather at Jantar Mantar if these elements sought to thwart the bill’s passage.