The Bihar government must take early steps to ensure that the order the state’s director-general of police has issued the other day depriving people who engage in “road blockades, protest demonstrations or other activities that affected law and order and against whom the police issues a charge-sheet for involvement in a criminal activity” of government jobs and contracts is annulled. It makes a mockery of the right to protest, which is guaranteed by the Constitution and upheld repeatedly by the Supreme Court of India.
The order suffers from too many infirmities when held against practices of democratic governance. True, the police is vested with the power and responsibility to maintain law and order, but it is not for them to decide who is culpable and not, and what punishment will be undergone by those who break the law and even those who exercise their basic rights. If the order is allowed to stand, then the police can chargesheet anyone who has participated in a protest, peaceful or otherwise. And given the speed with which the Indian legal system works, chances are that the person could be denied a government job or contract forever. The whims and fancies of the people in uniform cannot be allowed to decide the destiny of our citizens.
The Bihar police had recently said making objectionable comments on social media against the government, ministers and officials would come under the category of cybercrime. It looks like the police have a weird idea about the rights of the common people and those in the executive branch of the government. The orders betray a politically disturbing thought process, too. Bihar is being ruled by a chief minister who is a product of a popular protest movement and the state is known for its heroic experiments with democratic processes. That land cannot be held hostage to undemocratic ideas of a policeman. The earlier the government corrects it, the better.