NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has observed that the right to agitate is a democratic one and can’t therefore be curtailed just because protests may lead to traffic jams.
The apex court made this observation on Thursday while hearing a PIL petition seeking a direction to the Centre to ensure that agitations did not affect the lives of the general public.
The court also said that road traffic was a state subject and therefore the Centre didn’t have to do much in the matter. However, it asked the Centre to come up with suggestions for effectively dealing with agitations. The court will hear the case after eight weeks.
The petition, filed by former Uttar Pradesh police chief Prakash Singh, cited the prolonged road blockade in Manipur in 2011 that snapped surface transport services to the state and created a scarcity of essential commodities.
The petitioner has suggested that if a stir continues beyond 24 hours, the Divisional Commissioner or range DIG should take charge of the situation. If the agitation continues for more than three days, the Principal Secretary or the DGP should intervene. If all these steps fail to yield any result in five days, the High Court Chief Justice should be approached for appropriate orders. The persons or groups responsible for organising the blockade should be fined heavily and booked on relevant charges, the petition further said.
The Supreme Court on Thursday continued its hearing to decide whether courts can command the State to fund the restoration of places of worship damaged due to its failure to maintain law and order and questioned whether the constitutional scheme of things create impediments in the way of the legislature in making laws to fund restoration of places of damaged worship.
The court was hearing the appeal of Gujarat against a 2012 order of the High Court asking it to pay compensation to over 500 shrines damaged during the post-Godhra riots, framed the question for its own consideration whether damages under the principle of constitutional tort be sought against the State for failing to protect the places of worship.
A bench, comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice P C Pant, referred to the judgement in the T M A Pai Foundation case on the right of minorities to run educational institutions and Article 27 of the Constitution that deals with the fact that no person shall be compelled to pay taxes to promote or maintain any particular religion or religious denomination. “Courts can examine the validity of a government policy and the question would be whether they can order framing of any such policy in case of a void,” the bench said.
The court also asked Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Gujarat, to apprise it of the factual position as to how many places of worship, allegedly damaged during the riots, have been repaired so far and how many others are yet to be restored.