New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday stressed the need for taking preventive measures and giving free hand to police without any influence to counter the menace of road and rail blockades across the country during strikes and agitations in which public property also becomes a target.

"Why does the government not take preventive means"? a bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya said while speaking about some of the past incidents of agitations which witnessed destruction of public property and transport system.

The bench was of the view that timely and coordinated action by various law enforcing agencies without any influence from any quarters would benefit them in dealing with such situations.

"Our problem is when police take action and there is also a problem when the police do not take action. Unless a free hand is given without any influence and pressure from any quarters, it would be difficult to prevent such a situation," the bench said.

The remarks were made by the bench during the hearing of the petition on the issue of dalit killings in Mirchpur village in Hisar District of Haryana in April 2010 in which large scale violence, rail and road blockades, including destruction of public property, were witnessed after people from Jat community were arrested.

The case has resulted in the conviction of 15 people. Three were sentenced to life term and five accused were jailed for five years while seven others were released on probation of one year as most of them were first-time offenders.  The bench during Tuesday's hearing said while the situation in the central part of the country can be noticed and steps are taken by the agencies, the situation in other parts, including the north-eastern states, is different where road blockades continue for three months.

The bench gave a specific example of blocake of Agra-Bharatpur road for 40 days during the agitattion by the Gujjar Community demanding reservation in government jobs.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman, emphasised the need for coordianted action by various law enforcing agencies like local police, Government Railway Police (GRP) and Railway Protection Force (RPF) to prevent such a situation rather than coming out with a cure.

"Things like this should not happen. There is no coordination between local police and Railway police. We have to prevent such happenings rather than curing," he said and sought some more time to come out with suggestions on the issue of framing a guidelines for fixing responsibility for all such losses on state governments for failure to maintain law and order in their respective state.

The court was informed that Railways suffered a loss of over Rs 33 crore during the agitation by the Jat community against the police action on the Mirchpur dalit killings.

The court during the previous hearings had said state governments would have to pay for the loss incurred to Railways and general public for disruption of rail services.

"Destruction of public property and disrupting train services cannot be allowed in the name of agitation. The political parties behind such agitations must be derecognized and people must be sent behind the bars for such acts. Such activities are not acceptable and it promotes lawlessness," the bench had said.

The bench had asked Haryana government to respond why it should not pay for the loss incurred by the Railways by the 11-day stir organised by 12 'khap' panchayats against booking of some upper caste people in connection with the Mirchpur dalit killings case.

The bench had asked all the parties to suggest the guidelines to be framed to fix the responsibility for damages done to the public property during agitation.

(Agencies)