The right to assemble, hold meetings or stage peaceful protests is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution but it is subject to reasonable restrictions imposed in national interest or to maintain public order. While no one disputes this right, crucial for any democratic country worth its name, it is unfortunate that political parties in general are not bothered about the obligation that comes with this right.
Though there have been a number of instances wherein their irresponsible behaviour has resulted in damage to public and private property and even loss of life, it is doubtful if even one has been held accountable.
The latest culprit to join those ranks is the YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh. The party leaders took out a rally in Vijayawada to extend support to party chief Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy who crossed the 1,000-km milestone in his ongoing statewide padayatra.
While they did take permission, instead of holding the rally without causing public inconvenience, they brought traffic to a standstill. A 60-year-old man, on his way home from work, suffered chest pain and collapsed on the road even as their rally blocked the roads. An auto driver made frantic attempts to ferry him to a hospital. But by the time he reached the hospital, the man had breathed his last.
The bereaved family is demanding justice holding the YSRC leaders responsible. Don’t they deserve justice? It is easy to blame the police for letting the partymen occupy the roads but shouldn’t the party introspect? A case has been registered against 11 YSRC leaders, including a former MLA, under Section 341 (wrongfully restraining a person), 290 (public nuisance), 143 (unlawful assembly), and 304 A (causing death by negligence).
The Supreme Court itself has held that punishment under 304 A, which entails a fine and two-year jail term, is woefully inadequate. In fact, punishment under all these sections is inadequate since a precious life has been lost. It is imperative that the law is made more stringent. In this case, cops should take it to its logical conclusion.