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Peaceful Protests Permissible In Democracy Even If Court Is Considering The Issue : Dr. Singhvi In Calcutta High Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
19 May 2021 2:27 PM GMT
Peaceful Protests Permissible In Democracy Even If Court Is Considering The Issue : Dr. Singhvi In Calcutta High Court
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Peaceful protests on an issue are permissible in a democracy even if a court of law is considering the same, submitted Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi before the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday.The senior lawyer was appearing in the Narada sting case for three Trinamool Congress leaders, who were dramatically arrested by the CBI on May 17 leading to widespread public protests in...

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Peaceful protests on an issue are permissible in a democracy even if a court of law is considering the same, submitted Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi before the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday.

The senior lawyer was appearing in the Narada sting case for three Trinamool Congress leaders, who were dramatically arrested by the CBI on May 17 leading to widespread public protests in Kolkata spearheaded by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other party leaders.

The High Court is considering an application filed by the CBI under Section 407 of the Code of Criminal Procedure urging HC to withdraw to it the case from the trial court. The CBI is arguing that the trial court was pressurized to grant bail to the four TMC leaders -Firhad Hakim, Madan Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee and Souvan Chatterjee - due to the mass protests led by the Chief Minister and the Law Minister. The High Court has stayed the bail order after an urgent night hearing held on May 17.

Today, the bench comprising Acting Chief Justices Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee raised questions about the propriety of the public protests led by the government functionaries when the court was considering the bail applications.

"You say CM went to CBI office to protest..Gandhian protest..peaceful protest. But is it the way to respond when the matter is considered by Court? By protesting in streets?", Acting CJ Bindal asked Dr.Singhvi.

Dr. Singhvi replied that there can be response both legally and democratically. The case can be fought legally on merits and the issue of political vendetta can be protested democratically, he added.

"It would be negation of democracy to say that just because the matter is before court you cannot peacefully protest outside. Merely because a matter has gone to Court, it will not stop democratic dissent", he said.


He cited the example of the farmers protests which are ongoing even as the Supreme Court is considering the validity of the farm laws.

Dr.Singhvi also commented that protests are disorderly and it is the price one pays for democracy. He used the expression "democracy tax". However, the senior lawyer added a caveat that such protests should not impede the lawful functions of investigating agencies and the course of administration of justice.

When the Acting Chief Justice asked Singhvi about the dharna held by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in front of the CBI office, Dr.Singhvi replied that it was a protest against the unlawful arrests of her colleagues. He stressed that the Chief Minister had made an appeal for peaceful protests and that there were no exhortations for violence.

Dr. Singhvi said that the arrests were a reaction to "bitter election results". CBI sought sanction from Governor to arrest TMC MLAs, which is illegal. As per Constitution Bench decisions, sanction has to be taken from the Speaker, he added.

"If there is a perception of unlawful arrest, there is a right to protest, so long as the lawful functions of the agency are not restrained," he argued.

He added that there was an outrage amongst people against such unlawful arrests, and there is a right to feel outraged.

"That is the meaning of democracy. There was expression of anger against arrest after 7 years. The MLAs thought that their colleagues were arrested out of political vendetta because someone could not digest the election results" he said.

He added, "As it happens in democracy, there was protest by co-ministers, co-MLAs. But there was no hindrance to the CBI. The protestations are being used as an excuse by CBI now".

"For 5-6 hours CM remains in CBI office. Do you deny that the law minister going to court was systemic?" ACJ asked. He stated that there is a difference in status once MLA becomes a Minister. "You are not a simple MLA," the ACJ said.

Singhvi responded, "Does the CM going to CBI create a situation where a judicial order cannot be passed by a court of law after a virtual hearing of 4 hrs?"

It is also his case that mere presence of protestors outside Trial Court did not affect the judicial proceedings as the hearing was virtual.

"The Special Court has not expressed any difficulty… Special Judge has not made any remotest suggestion of being over-awed," he said.

At this juncture, ACJ Rajesh Bindal intervened, "The Special Judge should have recorded that he was being pressurized?"

"At least there should be a hint, a suggestion," Singhvi responded.

He insisted that the Special CBI Judge heard the matter judiciously and the protest is not connected with the judicial order which was passed after hearing and recording reasons.

"In what manner it is said that he impeded the administration of justice. What is the fact which shows that the law minister standing in the court complex influenced the judge? Did he (judge) even know if the minister was there? There were many people. It is natural," he said.

"It is not natural," ACJ responded.

Dr.Singvhi also highlighted that the proceedings in the Special Court happened through video-conferencing. The CBI suppressed from the High Court that the Special Court's heard the matter for over four hours through virtual mode, he added.

The bench will continue the hearing tomorrow at 2 PM.

While staying the bail order on Monday, the bench led by Acting Chief Justice had taken note of the dharna led by Chief Minister and the protest gathering led by law minister Moloy Ghatak in front of the CBI Court.

"Public trust and confidence in the judicial system is more important, it being the last resort. They may have a feeling that it is not the rule of law that prevails but it is a mob that has an upper hand and especially in a case where it is led by the Chief Minister of the State in the office of CBI and by the Law Minister of the State in the Court Complex. If the parties to litigation believe in the Rule of Law such a system is not followed. The idea was different", the Court had observed.

Other reports of the hearing :

'Is Protesting In Streets The Way To Respond When Matter Is Considered By Court?' : Calcutta HC Asks In Narada Case Against Trinamool Leaders

'Orchestrated Attempt To Frustrate Justice & Stop CBI From Discharging Its Functions': SG Tushar Mehta Tells Calcutta High Court in Narada Scam Case

Live account of the hearing may be read here.






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