The Uttarakhand High Court recently reiterated the contours within which a peaceful dharna may be permitted within a democracy and observed, “Nobody is expected to sabotage any public property. Damage to public property is damage to the nation.”
Justice U.C. Dhyani was hearing a Petition filed by one Mr. Praveen Aggarwal, challenging an order passed by the District Judge, Dehradun, wherein an order prohibiting the Defendants from staging a dharna within 500 metres of the suit property was stayed.
The Petitioner had been granted a license to run a country made liquor shop. The Respondents were obstructing the functioning of this shop claiming to be affected with such running of the shop. The Petitioner had, hence, obtained an order prohibiting any demonstrations within 500 metres of the property. This order was, subsequently, stayed in an Appeal filed by the Respondents. This provisional order of stay was now under challenge before the High Court.
Ruling in favor of the Petitioner, Justice Dhyani stayed the operation of the impugned order till the Appeal filed by the Respondent comes up before the District Judge, Dehradun.
The Court further modified the impugned order and prohibited demonstration within 50 metres of the suit property. “Peaceful dharna, agitation is sine qua non of a vibrant democracy. The said right of demonstration cannot be curtailed, but at the same time, care should be taken to see that no damage is caused to the public property and a person who has obtained valid license to run a shop is not unduly interfered with,” it observed.
The Court, however, clarified that the Respondents are at liberty to approach the Court for recall of the order, as the Petition was being decided without notice to the Respondents.