The Madras High Court held a special sitting on Sunday evening to hear pleas brought by residents, including the founder of a forum named the Indian Makkal Mandram, against the conduct of rallies announced by opposition parties in Tamil Nadu against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.
On Sunday night, the Bench of Justices S Vaidyanathan and PT Asha passed an interim order directing that any protest rallies conducted should be monitored, including by use of police drones, so that responsibility may be appropriately fixed if any violence takes place during the demonstration. The interim order states
"As an interim measure, in the event of the political parties proceeding with the agitation “DESPITE REFUSAL” there shall be an interim direction to the Police in that the area, including the diverted areas as found mentioned in the pamphlet of the respondents … for which the permission for procession is sought should be videographed and the drone technology can also be used for the purpose of recording the demonstration so that the liability can be foisted on the leaders and not on the followers."
Among other contentions, the petitions filed in the matter had registered protest against the public law and order problem and disturbance to public life which may ensue if the rallies were conducted.
The Court heard the pleas on an urgent basis, given that the rallies are expected to be held on Monday.
Appearing for the State, Government pleader, Jayaprakash Narayan is reported to have informed the Court that the police had not granted permission for the rallies since the organising parties had not responded to a query regarding whether they would take responsibility for the violence that may possibly follow during the protest. In view of this, the Bench also observed that,
"The evasive manner in which a responsible political party has answered the queries gives rise to a doubt in the mind of the Court that the leaders, who are spearheading the agitation are reluctant to take responsibility in the event of any damage to the public property or any untoward incident."
The Court also recorded the State's submission that if any unauthorised rallies are conducted, due action will be taken to maintain law and order.
"When this Court posed a question that in case the scheduled agitation takes place, despite the rejection order, the learned Government Pleader has stated that the State machinery will take care of the same and the Police will certainly prevent such procession and take adequate measure so as to ensure that law and order is maintained."
All the same, the Court has also observed that protests cannot be stifled in a democracy.
Madras High Court
However, to check on any illegal activity that could take place during any protest that may be conducted, the Court has directed that the police use drones to monitor the protest rallies.
The matter has been listed to be taken up again on December 30.