Activists and citizens in Bengaluru are furious with the city police's decision to ask protesters in the city to sign indemnity bonds of up to Rs 10 lakh to obtain permission to stage protests.
Police in the city are seeking bonds and are invoking section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. This gives powers to the police to seek a bond from persons who they have information will commit a breach of peace.
"Earlier the police did not seek bonds from protesters. This practice by the city police violates the law," Maitreyi Krishnan, an advocate in the city and activist taking part in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) told TNM.
Lawyers and activists say that the police have made signing an undertaking with a bond attached as a prerequisite for staging protests in Bengaluru.
"Section 107 of the CrPC is invoked when a magistrate receives information about a possible breach of peace. A show-cause notice is then issued and the person will get an opportunity to be heard. But in Bengaluru, police are asking us to take an undertaking failing which permission is not given for protests," says Avani Choksi, an advocate and activist in the city.
The city police however defended its decision and argued that the bond does not involve paying any money upfront. "We began this four months ago after buses were burnt in Ramanagara district. We felt the need of making protesters responsible for public property and life. They need not pay any money and only if an inquiry proves that the protesters were responsible for damage, it will cause trouble for them," Bengaluru Central DCP Chetan Singh Rathore told TNM.
He added that the bond of Rs 10 lakh is not a fixed amount and could vary depending on the protest. "It varies with the tone, sensitivity, number of people and duration of the protest. The bond may be Rs 1 lakh depending on the protest. When we know that the protesters are harmless, it can come down to Rs 50,000," the DCP added.
Protests in the city against the CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC) are mainly taking place at Maurya Circle, Freedom Park and Town Hall, within the jurisdictions of DCP Central and DCP West. Earlier, police in Mangaluru asked Rs 2 crore as a cautionary deposit from activists planning to stage anti-CAA protests.
Meanwhile, lawyers and activists are planning to challenge the police's decision in court and say that their actions are 'undemocratic'.