The Madras High Court has set aside an order passed by Superintendent of Polict, Trichy (Rural) which denied permission for a public protest meet against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019.
Justice G R Swaminathan, who passed the order, however refrained from granting permission to the petitioners for holding the event taking note of the prohibitory orders imposed by the Government in view of COVID 19 pandemic.
"Therefore, even while setting aside the impugned order, I am not in a position to direct the first respondent to permit holding of the petition mentioned event on 20.03.2020. The jurisdictional Deputy Superintendent of Police, will issue proceedings permitting holding of the event at the petition mentioned site immediately after the ban issued by the Government in the wake of novel coronavirus pandemic is lifted".
Notably, Justice G R Swaminathan referred to the recent speech given by SC judge Justice D Y Chandrachud in the Justice P D Desai Memorial Lecture, where he spoke about the importance of dissent in growth of democracy. Similar speech given by Justice Deepak Gupta in the SCBA lecture series was also referred to in the judgment.
"The right to hold public meeting is traceable to Article 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(b) of Constitution of India. These provisions guarantee to all citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression and to assemble peaceably and without arms", Justice Swaminathan said in the judgment.
The judgment also referred to the Constitution Bench judgment of the Supreme Court in (1973) 1 SCC 277 (Himat Lal K.Shah V. Commissioner of Police), which held that the right to hold public meetings flows from Article 19(1)(b) and that the state cannot impose unreasonable restrictions.
"When it comes to upholding fundamental rights, it is the duty of the local administration to a stand in aid of the same. If any law and order problem arises, the same must be dealt with appropriately. The police should not choose the easy option of stifling the fundamental rights", the Court observed.
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