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Karnataka HC prescribes guidelines on handling rowdy, history sheeting

BENGALURU: Observing that there is a need for a comprehensive legislation concerning the Rowdy Sheeting and History Sheeting in view of the Supreme Court judgement related to privacy in the KS Puttaswamy case, the Karnataka High Court prescribed nine guidelines, including the review of entries in Rowdy Register once in two years by the jurisdictional police till a comprehensive legislation is framed.

Issuing these guidelines while disposing of petitions by 20 rowdy/history sheeters from different parts of the state seeking directions to the jurisdictional police to remove their names from the Rowdy/History Sheet, Justice Krishna S Dixit said the existing provisions of the Karnataka Police Manual prove inadequate in the light of Puttaswamy jurisprudence.

The court noted that there are discernible consequences adverse to the interest of the individual concerned who may not be an accused. There has to be a due procedure for making or continuing entries in rowdy register/history sheets. A proper grievance redressal mechanism has to be developed against a wrongful registration of names and their continuation, it opined.

The petitions contain cases in which rowdy sheeting is done without any basis, periodical suo motu review of rowdy sheets not done, review of rowdy sheets not undertaken despite representation and entries continued beyond reasonable period without justification.

Petitioners argued that there is no discernable procedure to enter their names to the Rowdy Registers and there is no procedural and substantive safeguarding of victims of rowdy sheeting, which has many implications on their liberty, privacy & reputation.

The state government contended that rowdy sheeting has been a necessary practice since colonial days and it is managed by police officials with expertise and due restraint.

“An individual being branded as a ‘bad character/shady character’, ‘goonda’ or ‘rowdy’ is viewed as an ‘anti-social element’. During special occasions such as elections, festivals, social/political events, visits of constitutional/foreign dignitaries, social turmoil or the like, their activities are put under acute scanner. Police surveillance per se casts social stigma that may mar the political career of the individual concerned. This is where some mechanism/framework has to be devised to minimize the damage potential in the light of privacy jurisprudence as developed in KS Puttaswamy’s case”, said Justice Krishna S Dixit.