It Is The Duty Of Police To See That No Insurgents Intrude In Sabarimala To Ruin Peaceful Pilgrimage : Kerala HC[ Read Order] 

It Is The Duty Of Police To See That No Insurgents Intrude In Sabarimala To Ruin Peaceful Pilgrimage : Kerala HC[ Read Order] 

"There cannot be any dispute that(based on intelligence reports and such other materials collected by police) that it is the duty of police to look into all aspects and to see that there is no advancement of insurgents in any manner to make use of the situation and intrude to Sabarimala spoiling smooth and peaceful pilgrimage of peaceful devotees", observed the Division Bench of High Court of Kerala in an order passed yesterday.

The Division Bench of Justices P R Ramachandra Menon and N Anilkumar further observed that "with the above intent it is open for police to conduct search and analysis, which cannot be prevented. However, care and caution has to be taken to ensure that, it does not limit in any manner, particularly when the District Magistrate also projects the importance of smooth 'darshan' to be provided to genuine pilgrims".

The Division Bench was hearing a batch of petitions which challenged a prohibitory order issued by the District Magistrate under Section 144 Cr.PC on November 15, which restricted unlawful assembly, protests, marches, public meetings, etc in and around the Sannidhanam area. The petitioners contended that the order interfered with the right to worship of devotees. They contended that Sabarimala pilgrims come in groups, by chanting "sharana manthrams". Police was targeting persons chanting "sharana manthras" by invoking the prohibitory order, alleged the petitioners.

The Advocate General C P Sudhakara Prasad submitted that the order only restricted unlawful practises with the intent to ensure smooth pilgrimage of genuine devotees. The AG clarified that there is no restriction in chanting "sharana manthras".  The AG also produced a letter issued by the DGP clarifying that police has no objection in people coming in groups or chanting "sharana manthras" and that police restrictions are applicable only to identified persons with vested interests who were "posing as pilgrims". On that basis, the Court ordered:

"In view of the contents of the letter of the DGP, which is put on record, and the submissions made by the learned Advocate General, we  make it clear that the order dated 15.11.2018 passed by the District Magistrate (challenged in the writ petitions) will not stand in the way of any genuine pilgrim, in proceeding to Sabarimala either as individual or as groups and also in chanting 'saranamanthras', which shall not be prevented by the Police or anybody else in any manner"

The Court further clarified :

"However, as mentioned already, if anybody wants to rupture or ruin the peaceful atmosphere prevailing there and cause any breach of peace, it is open for the police to identify such persons and take appropriate action against them in accordance with the  relevant provisions of law"

The Court observed that Sabarimala pilgrimage is customarily undertaken in groups. The Section 144 order was issued with the intention of ensuring smooth pilgrimage without hindrance. The question was whether this order was correctly understood or implemented by the police at Sabarimala, observed the Court.

The proceedings began with the Division Bench taking note of the plight of about 110 pilgrims from Mumbai who stopped pilgrimage at Erumeli and went back in view of the "pressurizing circumstance". The petitioners alleged that excessive restrictions imposed by police drove the pilgrims away. The Police said that restrictions of "six hours darsan time" was applicable only to certain identified persons. Though the Court did not express anything on the factual correctness of both versions, it emphasised on the need to ensure safe and smooth pilgrimage for genuine devotees.

"According to this Court, prima facie, all stakeholders, whether it be on the petitioners' side or the side of the State/Police/Devaswom are collectively responsible for the sad state of affair", it  observed.

The matter has been adjourned to December 6.

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