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"If this Court has been permitting Anti-CAA meeting to be conducted, this Court is bound to permit holding of meetings in support of CAA also", the Court observed.
Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madras High Court recently had occasion to observe that people have a right to conduct peaceful meetings to register their views on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 - whether its in support of the legislation or opposing it.
Two days after it allowed pleas for the conduct of an Anti-CAA meeting, the judge noted that pleas to conduct meetings to register support for the CAA also deserved to be treated the same. As stated in the later order of March 12 (Kidar Bisme vs. The Superintendent of Police, Thoothukudi and ors.),
The state authorities had denied the petitioner permission to conduct the meet on apprehensions that the same may lead to a disruption in law and order. The Court, however, noted,
"Citizenship Amendment Act is an Act that has been validly passed by the Indian Parliament. If a person wants to conduct a meeting in support of the same and if the said right is sought to be infringed, it is the duty of the third respondent (Police) to provide the fullest protection for the same."
Madras High Court
The Court allowed the plea after taking on record various undertakings given by the organisers to ensure the peaceful conduct of the meeting.
Similar observations were made in the order passed by Justice Swaminathan last Tuesday, when the petitioner had sought the intervention of the High Court over the refusal of the police to allow the conduct of an Anti-CAA meet (D Vasudevan vs. The Superintendent of Police, Thanjavur and ors).
The judge observed that the topic continues to be under heavy debate amongst legal experts, remarking,
"No one can dispute that the issue raised by the petitioner is being debated at all levels at present. Writ petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court. Articles are being written both for and against. Leaders and intellectuals are taking positions. While Harish Salve finds nothing discriminatory in the amendments, Suthrith Parthasarathy calls it unconstitutional."
Justice GR Swaminathan
The Judge, however, proceeded to emphasise that,
The Court proceeded to allow this plea, while also commenting that, "The authorities ought not to forget that Article 19 of the Constitution of India confers the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to assemble peaceably and without arms. These fundamental rights, of course can be subjected to reasonable restrictions laid down in Article 19(2) and (3) of the Constitution of India but not more or beyond."
[Read the order passed on March 12, 2020]
[Read the order passed on March 10, 2020]