Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala High Court came down heavily on the Pinarayi Vijayan administration on Friday for the thousands of arrests it has made in connection with the Sabarimala protests, asking it not to play to the gallery.
Warning that the government would have to pay a heavy price if any innocents are arrested, a division bench of Justices PR Ramachandra Menon and Devan Ramachandran said arrests should only be made once the involvement of a person in violent protests has been confirmed in proper investigation.
Kerala Police has so far arrested 2,061 people on the charges of participating in violent protests last week against the entry of women into Sabarimala shrine despite a Supreme Court order.
Suresh Kumar and Anoj Kumar of the Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samithi had approached the high court, alleging that unlawful arrests were being made by police.
Their petition alleged that even those who were part of peaceful protests were being targeted and harassed, further stating that in some cases police was taking the devotees into custody and manufacturing charges afterwards.
Hailing from Pathanamthitta where the hill shrine is located, the two petitioners told the court that even devotees who participated in the "Nama Japa Yajnam" (chanting of Ayyappa mantras) were harassed by police. Police reportedly told them that they were liable to be prosecuted for committing various offences, of which they are totally ignorant, they alleged.
The court has also urged to probe whether only devotees had reached Sabarimala. It posted the case for further hearing on Monday.
The Supreme Court had in September allowed women of menstruating age to enter the hill shrine, lifting an age-old ban, but the protesters had not allowed a single woman to enter when it opened for six days. Over a dozen women had made the attempt, but they were forced to turn back after being heckled.
Cracking down on the violation of the top court’s writ, the Kerala Police has launched a massive manhunt to nab all the accused, registering over 450 cases so far. Of the 2,061 arrested, 1,500 have been granted bail. Most of those who have been arrested belong to Hindutva outfits, officials said.
The bench also directed the government not to appoint non-Hindus as Devaswom Commissioners. The court gave the direction while disposing of a plea filed by Kerala BJP president P S Sreedharan Pillai, challenging the amendments to the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950, which allow appointment of non-Hindus as Devaswom Commissioners.
The state government has submitted only Hindus would be appointed Commissioners of the Travancore Devaswom Board and the Cochin Devaswom Board.