"You can't deliver sermons": Karnataka High Court pulls up CPI(M) for affidavit highlighting "right to protest" in case on Covid guidelines
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"You can't deliver sermons": Karnataka High Court pulls up CPI(M) for affidavit highlighting "right to protest" in case on Covid guidelines

"You are talking as if somebody is trying to take away your fundamental right of speech. Are you saying that the Court wants to infringe you right to protest?", the High Court asked.

An affidavit filed by Communist Party of India (Marxist) party [CPI(M)] highlighting their "fundamental right to protest", rubbed Karnataka High Court the wrong way with the Court expressing its strong disapproval at the tenor and contents of the affidavit.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Vishwajith Shetty, remarked that affidavit gave an impression that the Court was trying to impair the fundamental rights of the party to hold protests and rallies.

"You are talking as if somebody is trying to take away your fundamental right of speech. Who is taking away your fundamental right of speech? Are you saying that the Court wants to infringe you right to protest?" the Bench remarked.

The court was hearing a plea alleging that the National Directives for COVID-19 Management, part of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines, were not being followed in Karnataka.

The affidavit was filed pursuant to an order of the court during the previous hearing asking various political parties whether they were willing to issue instructions to their members/followers to abide by rules regarding wearing of masks and social distancing at political parties and gatherings.

"We strongly disapprove of this...Just because you were asked to file an affidavit, you can't deliver such sermons," the Court remarked after perusing CPI(M)'s affidavit.

The Court proceeded to record its disapproval in the order.

"The 7th respondent (CPIM) in its affidavit states that this Court wants to prohibit holding of rallies and their right to protest. After going through para 4 and 5 of the affidavit, we are of the opinion that the respondent has not understood the scope of this petition nor the directions of the Court. No prayer has been made in any of the petitions to ban protests. While we accept paras 8 and 9, we express our disapproval towards paras, 4 and 5," the order said.

Further, the Court, in its order, also observed that it failed to understand why the State government had not levied fines from the organizers of a rally conducted on December 5.

"The State government is reluctant to implement the sections of the Karnataka Epidemic Diseases Act. It appears that there was a rally on 5th December but fine of Rs 50,000 has not been levied from the organizers of the rally."

The Court, therefore, directed the Commissioner of Police to file an affidavit detailing the reasons for not collecting fines from the organizer of the rally. He was further directed to explain why criminal law has not been set in motion against persons violating social distancing norms and wearing masks.

The matter will be heard next on January 11.

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