Press Council of India (PCI) chairman Markanday Katju Friday asked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa to suspend 30 policemen involved in the illegal arrest of an editor of a daily nearly three years ago or resign.
Taking serious note of the government's inability to comply with two PCI orders in the case passed in April and August 2012, Justice Katju directed the state administration to immediately suspend, chargesheet and arrest the policemen.
The PCI chief said a chief minister should resign if he or she is unable to rule in accordance with the constitution.
During an opening hearing by the PCI inquiry committee here, Justice Katju said it was deeply regrettable that Tamil Nadu authorities showed total disrespect to the two PCI orders.
The PCI was dealing with a complaint by S. Manimaran, the editor of "Thinaboomi", a Tamil daily published from Madurai. It was one of 20 cases heard by the panel.
The editor alleged that policemen barged into his house July 21, 2010, and took him away, along with his son, without a warrant. They were jailed and treated like criminals by police, he said.
Maniraman alleged that a false case was booked against him on a complaint by the president of the granite quarry owners' association as he was writing against illegal granite mining in Madurai district.
"We had expected that 30 policemen who had committed high-handed and illegal act of barging into the complainant's house in the night would have been suspended, arrested and charge sheeted, but that was not done. Even today, neither the district collector nor the home secretary appeared before us in sheer defiance of our orders," the PCI said in its orders.
"It is the solemn duty of the Tamil Nadu administration to comply with orders of this committee. The Tamil Nadu government finds itself unable to run the administration in accordance with the constitution. It has no right to continue in office and should quit. We ask the Tamil Nadu government to submit its resignation or if it does not wish to do so, it must immediately order the arrest, charge sheeting and suspension of those policemen who behaved in a highly undemocratic and illegal manner towards the complainant," the PCI chief said.
"In our opinion, filing the criminal case can't be made an excuse to escape action from the Press Council in connection with the freedom of press," he added.
"A large section of policemen in this country still think that they are living in British times and act in a high-handed and undemocratic manner and trample on the civil liberties of the citizens guaranteed by the fundamental rights of our constitution. It is time that they be taught a lesson how to behave in a democratic manner," he observed.
During the hearing, Justice Katju repeatedly asked the government lawyer to tell Jayalithaa to resign if she was unable to run the administration in accordance with the constitution.
"Tell your chief minister to resign. Let the chief minister say she is not able run the administration in accordance with the constitution. Let the chief minister go to the governor and say here is my resignation. Let the people of Tamil Nadu remain in peace," he remarked.
"Are we living in a democracy or a dictatorship," Katju asked.
When the lawyer representing the Tamil Nadu government pointed out that it was the DMK which was in power at the time the incident occurred, Justice Katju said the previous orders were not against any particular party.