Observing that the police action against peaceful protesters over shifting of capital Amaravati was violative of fundamental and human rights, the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday directed officers concerned to conduct an inquiry against police officials who violated relevant Supreme Court guidelines.
A division bench, comprising Chief Justice J K Maheshwari and Justice M Satyanarayana Murthy, passed the remarks on a batch of writ petitions, including one the court took on its own, on police 'high-handedness' on people protesting against the government's move to shift the capital from Amaravati.
The court questioned the state Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary (Home), Principal Secretary (GAD) and Director General of Police on why action was not initiated against their subordinates for not maintaining the rule of law. It directed them to apprise the court of the reasons for not doing so.
The Court also sought an explanation from Collectors of Guntur and Krishna districts, Vijayawada Police Commissioner and Superintendents of Guntur Rural and Urban Police on invocation of prohibitory orders when the "villagers were peacefully agitating" against the state action.
It posted the petitions for further hearing on January 17 and asked Advocate General S Sriram to file a counter affidavit.
It directed the state government to permit the public to demonstrate peacefully and ordered the Vijayawada Commissioner of Police and SPs of Guntur Rural and Urban to strictly adhere to the procedure prescribed under Section 46 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The High Court also restrained police from entering the houses of villagers to conduct searches and said they should strictly adhere to the procedure stipulated in the Cr P C.
"As seen from the number of photographs published in newspapers and filed along with the writ petitions, the way in which police are treating the public, including women, is violative of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India so also human rights. Enforcing orders under Section 144 Cr P C, restricting movement of public, not allowing people in various villages to attend their daily avocation for livelihood, not allowing them to perform traditional and customary rituals … is nothing but prima facie violation of the right to peacefully agitate on any issue as guaranteed under Article 19 (1)(b) of the Constitution," the Bench observed.
Restricting the movement of individuals also amounts to violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, the court said.
"Dragging women when they are protesting against the government, as appeared in newspapers and video clippings, is prima facie violative of Section 46 of CrPC and the guidelines issued by courts from time to time," the judges noted.
They directed the Vijayawada Police Commissioner and SPs of Guntur Rural and Urban to conduct an inquiry against the police officials, who violated the apex court guidelines and failed to adhere to the procedure prescribed under the Cr P C.
The judges asked the unit heads to take action against the guilty police officials as per law.
The Court, however, said it was expected from the "galaxy of executive officials" to maintain rule of law in the state.