This must stop, says Supreme Court on Kanwariya violence

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New Delhi: Vandalism and destruction of public property cannot be allowed, an anguished Supreme Court said on August 10 while expressing serious concern over growing incidents of hooliganism and violence, like the one witnessed in Delhi on August 7 when Kanwariyas damaged a car.
The government, represented by attorney-general K.K. Venugopal, readily agreed and urged the three-judge bench, headed by Chief justice Dipak Misra, to fix responsibility for destruction of private and public property as such incidents are increasing day by day.
The court decided to frame guidelines. Mr Venugopal mentioned the recent violent incident involving Kanwariyas in Delhi, the agitation opposing Padmaavat film’s release, the SC/ST bandh and the Marathas’ reservation protest and said “riots and protests” are happening in some part of the country almost every week and senior police officers should be held accountable by court.
“There has to be an FIR and responsibilities fixed,” the law officer told the bench, including Justices A.M. Kanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud,
When the counsel said that the government has been contemplating an amendment in the existing law to deal with such violent protests and courts should allow it to change the law suitably, the CJI said, “We will not wait for the amendment. This is a grave situation and this must stop.”
“You may burn your own house and be a hero but you cannot damage third party property,” said the CJI as the bench reserved its verdict on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Kodungallur Film Society against the damage to property during protests against the movie Padmaavat that was accused by Rajput groups of hurting their sentiments.
The top law officer was offering his suggestions to a bench headed on possible measures to curb rioting and vandalism during protests.
Mr Venugopal pointed out that the offences under Section 153A (hate speech) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code should have been registered against those who committed and instigated violent acts disrupting public order in the name of protests.
Justice Chandrachud, who was the Chief Justice of Allahabad high court before his elevation to the apex court, referred to traffic congestion on the road between Varanasi and Allahabad during “Kanwar yatra”, the annual pilgrimage in which Shiva devotees usually travel in groups.
“Half portion of the highway between Allahabad to Varanasi is blocked and it takes five hours to reach Allahabad from Varanasi,” Justice Chandrachud observed.
On Thursday, Niti Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar had come down heavily on Kanwariyas for their unruly behaviour and wondered whether hooliganism should be allowed in the name of religion. Mr Kumar had tweeted, “Public display of hooliganism should be unacceptable. Behavior of Kanwariyas on national highways is a public hazard. Why should state authorities not control this movement and stop loud offensive music and takeover roads for hours. Should hooliganism be allowed in the name of religion?”
Petitioner Kodungallur Film Society had drawn the attention of the court to a series of directions issued by the apex court in 2009 that organizers of any protests shall be personally held accountable for the loss of private and public property. The court had also ordered police authorities to videograph such protests so accountability could be fixed but this is not being done, the PIL said.
The Delhi police had registered a case against unidentified persons after a group of Kanwariyas, Shiva devotees on annual pilgrimage, allegedly vandalized a car on Tuesday in west Delhi, vexed by the driver allegedly hitting one of them. One accused has so far been arrested.

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