CHENNAI:Reversing the orders of a single judge, a division bench of the Madras High Court on Monday ruled that no permission can be granted to hold demonstrations and agitations in any form on the Marina beach.
The bench of Justices KK Sasidharan and SM Subramaniam gave the ruling while allowing an appeal from the State Home secretary, DGP and the Police Commissioner challenging the orders dated April 28 last on the writ petition from farmers’ leader Ayyakannu, who prayed for permission, as per his application dated April 2, to conduct fasting struggle for 90 days from April 9 on the Marina.
The single-member bench had directed the authorities to grant permission to him to hold a peaceful fast meeting in the place to be earmarked on the Marina just for a day with such reasonable restrictions as they deem fit and proper.
The state government, which had been clamping down on any form of protests on the Marina beach since the famed 2017 Jallikattu protest, appealed against the court order. Allowing it, the two-member bench observed that this is not a case of the State prohibiting the assembly or demonstrations throughout the Chennai city. The Chennai police commissioner had identified certain locations for holding processions and meetings. Some of them are close to the Legislative Assembly and Secretariat. Even otherwise, the leaders of the movement, after holding the meeting at any of the dedicated places, can meet the Chief Minister or the Minister concerned or the appropriate authorities to submit their representations. There is no necessity for a show of strength on the Marina for espousing the cause of agriculturists.
“Thus, while recognising the fact that dialogue, dissent and deliberation are imperative and necessary in a democracy, other aspects like public order, safety and general public interest must also be given equal weightage and significance, which ultimately make up the true hallmark of a democratic welfare State. The State is, therefore, correct in regulating the assembly on the Marina in larger public interest,” the bench said and quashed the April 28 order of the single judge granting permission to hold a public meeting on the Marina.
Where to protest
The executive, empowered with the task of maintaining law and order, has both the right and duty to exercise its discretion, on logical and unbiased parameters to decide upon permitting a particular place to be used as a centre of protest.