Devbrat Patnaik

Cuttack: The Orissa High Court, based on a report of the Amicus Curiae, has directed Odisha Police DG to file an affidavit in connection with the alleged inaction of police during recent motorcycle rally by Biju Janata Dal (BJD), when hundreds of party workers were seen driving bikes without wearing helmet.

The directive came when the HC was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on police reforms in the State, which it had registered suo motu based on Supreme Court order in March last year.

Disapproving of the way Odisha police is collecting hefty fines from common citizens and turning blind eye when BJD members violate traffic rules, the Amicus Curiae in his report said, "Recently on December 26, 2019, there was a demonstration-cum-motor cycle rally by BJD from Master Canteen Chowk in Bhubaneswar to the party’s office wherein hundreds of members took part. All rules were thrown to the winds in this rally. Majority of the bike riders did not wear helmet. The State police instead of apprehending them, gave protection to the members of the rally. On the contrary, the State Police have been day in and out collecting lakhs of rupees from the common citizens for riding two-wheelers without wearing helmet."

He further mentioned, "This biased and apathetic attitude of the police needs immediate reformation. Hence the Odisha DGP may file an affidavit as to why the rally was allowed to go through under police protection and without collecting fines from the bike riders. The DGP may be directed to immediately take action in this regard against the errant riders and submit an affidavit, and also take disciplinary action against the negligent officials."

Reportedly, the HC also directed the Odisha Government to file an affidavit indicating how many demonstrations, hartals, bandhs have been organized across the state between March 16, 2013 and December 31, 2019. The affidavit will also mention in how many demonstrations/hartals/bandhs, permissions were sought for, and granted by the District Administration, and what action was taken in respect of demonstrations/ hartals/bandhs which became violent and caused damage to public and private property.

The report was submitted based on the scope of the PIL filed before the Supreme Court which included ensuring welfare of police forces and deal with allegations of police inaction, implement SC guidelines in case of destruction of public property and violation of statutory rules during agitations, demonstrations, hartals etc, fill up vacant posts in the police and state armed forces, regular training of police forces and fixing the working hours of police forces, guidelines for media reporting of violent mass agitation and police action for prevention and control thereof, and to restrain the States from drawing a presumption against the action of police acting under constitutional and statutory obligations.

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