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Kerala High Court Directs Religious & Political Bodies To Scrupulously Follow Norms Preventing Obstruction On Public Roads

Hannah M Varghese
23 Nov 2021 4:46 PM GMT
Kerala High Court Directs Religious & Political Bodies To Scrupulously Follow Norms Preventing Obstruction On Public Roads
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The Kerala High Court has issued a directive to the religious and political organisations in the State to scrupulously follow the norms prohibiting obstruction of pedestrian and traffic movement on public roads during festivals or protests. A Division Bench comprising Justices Anil K. Narendran and Justice P.G Ajithkumar was considering a plea filed by a resident near the...

The Kerala High Court has issued a directive to the religious and political organisations in the State to scrupulously follow the norms prohibiting obstruction of pedestrian and traffic movement on public roads during festivals or protests. 

A Division Bench comprising Justices Anil K. Narendran and Justice P.G Ajithkumar was considering a plea filed by a resident near the Chavady-Thuravur Junction challenging the practice of setting up shops on the road margin during the annual festival of Thuravur Mahakshethram.

"The service roads provided on the side of National Highway and bypass constructed as per the Manual of Specifications and Standards prescribed by the Indian Roads Congress are for vehicular traffic, which cannot be converted as a parking space for commercial or other establishments, religious institutions, etc., or even for putting up temporary structures in connection with  festivals in temples, churches, mosques, etc., or for putting up temporary structures as resting place for headload workers, etc., or for putting up bus shelters by political parties or by any other organisations." 

The Court added that Any failure on the part of the designated authorities, contractor, consultant or concessionaire in maintaining the safety standards of public roads will attract the penal consequences provided under Section 198A of the Motor Vehicles Act. 

The primary contention in the petition was that since the road in question was maintained by the Public Works Department (PWD), no shops or stalls could be set up without its authorisation. However, the Travancore Devsawom Board retorted that the said road was laid through Devaswom property.

Nevertheless, the Bench opined that the road has to remain as such and the Board cannot auction off space on the road or the pavement. It was also directed that no shop owner shall exhibit their wares outside his stall.

"No temporary stalls shall be erected on the service road of National Highway-66 and any such shops can be erected during temple festival only on any Devaswom land abutting that service road, without causing any obstruction whatsoever to the movement of vehicles and pedestrians through that road."

The petitioner had pointed out that although roadside stalls outside temples or churches were one of the charms of religious festivals, these could not be allowed to obstruct the movement of pedestrians and traffic. The bench agreed to this argument of the petitioner. 

The Court further noted that the norms laid down regarding non-obstruction of public roads and pavements have to be followed by everyone, be it the Travancore Devaswom Board or persons associated with churches or mosques or any religious or political organization conducting an event or a protest.

"Footpaths are not intended for stocking articles for trade or for display of goods by traders, in front of their shops or establishments. Similarly, footpaths are not intended for holding campaigns, demonstrations, etc., by political parties and other organisations, by causing obstructions to  free movement of pedestrians. No political party or organisation can be permitted to encroach footpath or right of way of public roads, in connection with any such protest, demonstrations, etc., by erecting any temporary structures on the right of way or on the pedestrian facilities,forcing pedestrians including those with disabilities and reduced mobility to walk in unsafe circumstances." 

Accordingly, the Bench ordered the Alappuzha District Collector to convene a meeting with the Grama Panchayath and PWD officials to finalise a site plan for the allotment of the shops.

Advocate L. Ram Mohan appeared for the petitioner while the respondents were represented by Senior Government Pleader S. Raj Mohan and Standing Counsel G. Santhosh Kumar for Travancore Devaswom Board. 

Case Title: Satheesh v. Travancore Devaswom Board

Click Here To Read/Download Judgement 

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