Chennai: Holding that the right of citizens cannot be curtailed except for definite reasons, the Madras High Court on Friday directed Tamil Nadu government to permit RSS units take out processions on specified routes and hold public meetings in places earmarked by them, with reasonable restrictions as the state deemed fit.
"After considering the very same decisions, which are now relied upon before me and also considering the decision of the Supreme Court in Ramlila Maidan case and other similar matters relied upon by division benches of this court that the right of citizens to conduct processions and public meetings cannot be curtailed, except on definite reasons, I am inclined to allow these petitions,"Justice V Ramasubramanian said.
Referring to another Single Judge's order concerning the right of a political party to hold demonstrations, he said the Judge had concluded that the provision is only regulatory and does not confer a blanket power to trifle democratic dissent.
Justice Ramasubramanian, while referring to the RSS undertaking on processions and route marches, noted that their counsel has stated they would not carry lathis nor shout slogans inciting any violence or offend sentiments of anyone.
"The organisers are prepared to give names and addresses of persons who will take responsibility for any untoward incident if it happens. Therefore, after having permitted rallies, processions and public meetings for several organisations, it may not be possible to deny such permission to the petitioners", the HC said.
Rejecting the government's contention on inputs received from intelligence agencies, he said these were general in nature and were actually received over a long period from January 2014 onwards and not with particular reference to a rally or public meeting the petitioners wanted to take out.
The Judge also rejected the contention of the state which relied on Sec 41-A of Chennai City Police Act and Sec 30(2) of the Police Act, saying these two sections are provided only for regulation and not any prohibition.
On government's objections to the Khaki half-trouser and white shirt worn by RSS volunteers, that it resembles the uniform of armed forces or police, he said none in the police force wears half-trousers. The question was of no relevance to the case on hand as Sec 41-A does not deal with holding of processions but only with drill, training or assembly.
"It is claimed that the uniform the volunteers wear was designed in the 1920s. Therefore, the authorities appear to have raised a bogey in the form of such an objection and have taken recourse to a wrong provision of law," the judge said.
"Hence, on a pure and simple question of law, the impugned orders are liable to be set aside," he said.