28 Feb 2023 5:10 AM GMT
The Tripura High Court recently observed that once a National Highway has been blocked in the form of an assembly, it amounts to violation of Section 8B of the National Highway Act and hence no claim of immunity under Article 19(1)(a)(b) of the Constitution of India can be made.Section 8B penalizes acts that render any national highway impassable or less safe for traveling.A bench...
The Tripura High Court recently observed that once a National Highway has been blocked in the form of an assembly, it amounts to violation of Section 8B of the National Highway Act and hence no claim of immunity under Article 19(1)(a)(b) of the Constitution of India can be made.
Section 8B penalizes acts that render any national highway impassable or less safe for traveling.
A bench comprising Acting Chief Justice TA Goud & Justice Arindam Lodh observed that no doubt petitioners have fundamental rights and liberty to express their freedom of speech and as well as assemble peacefully without arms, however, the said fundamental right is guided by reasonable restrictions.
"In view of the said restrictions, Section 8B of the National Highway Act comes into play. Whether any violence has taken place and whether it was an unlawful assembly is immaterial but once the National Highway itself has been blocked by the petitioners it amounts to a clear violation of Section 8B of the National Highway Act and the petitioners cannot claim immunity under Article 19(1)(a)(b) of the Constitution of India."
The bench was hearing a plea in terms of which the petitioners had challenged an FIR and the consequent criminal proceedings against them by the state respondents.
The petitioners protested the killing of a Fire Fighter allegedly by some political groups by first calling a bandh and again on 25.11.2020, they had assembled on the National Highway to protest and subsequently had blocked the Highway.
Since It was peak COVID-19 period, the Police registered several FIRs in several Police Stations under Sections 34, 143, 145, 149, 151, 157, 186, 188, 269, 270, 283, 341, 353, 436, 506, IPC read with Section 8-B of the National High Way Act, 1956 and also under various sections of Disaster Management Act 2005, Epidemic Diseases Act 1987, Tripura Police Act, 2007 and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984.
Challenging the proceedings, the Counsel for the petitioners pressed into service fundamental rights envisaged in Constitution of India in terms Article 19(1)(a) and(b) of the Constitution of India.
The petitioners further referred to Sections 1 and 2 of the Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which prescribes that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Per contra, respondents submitted that exercising of fundamental rights during COVID19 period by blocking National Highway is a gross violation of Section 8B of National Highway Act causing hardship to Ambulance, Public, daily need supplies etc. Respondents further contended that the petitioner/accused had not obtained any permission for such assembly and had given call for Bandh which is against the Constitution of India and infringement to public rights and liberties.
After anxiously considering the rival contentions the court said that in order to appreciate the contention of the petitioners under Article 19 of the Constitution, it is relevant to identify the place where the said agitation has taken place and as it is evident from the record, the cause of action and unlawful assembly was at NH-8.
In view of the specific prohibition under Section 8B of the National Highway Act, 1956, the court stated that the action of the petitioners in the manner in which they have blocked the National Highway cannot be appreciated.
The Court also noted that the petitioners had not approached any competent authority seeking permission to exercise their fundamental right to assembly. Accordingly, it dismissed the plea.
Case Title: Tripura People's Front Vs State Of Tripura.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Tri) 6
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