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No protests on the Marina: Madras HC upholds TN government’s decision
Observing that the right to protest, unfortunately, has been continuously misunderstood as a right to inconvenience the public, the Madras High Court on Monday upheld the State’s decision not to allow protest meetings either on Kamaraj Salai or on the sands of Marina.
Setting aside the order of single judge dated April 28, 2018, granting permission to farmers to hold a public meeting on the Marina, a division bench comprising Justices KK Sasidharan and R Subramanian, said, “While recognising the fact that dialogue, dissent and deliberation are imperative and necessary in a democracy, other aspects like public order, safety and general public interest must also be given equal weightage and significance, which ultimately make up the true hallmark of a democratic welfare state. The State is therefore correct in regulating the Assembly at Marina in larger public interest.”
Also, noting that this is not a case of the State prohibiting assembly or demonstrations throughout Chennai, the bench said, “The Commissioner of Police has identified certain locations for holding processions and meetings. Some of these places are very near to the Legislative Assembly and Secretariat. Even otherwise, the leaders of the movement after holding the meeting at any of the dedicated places, can meet the Chief Minister or Minister concerned or the appropriate authorities to submit their representations.
There is no necessity for a show of strength at Marina for espousing the cause of agriculturists.” “The executive, empowered with the task of maintaining law and order, has both the right and duty to exercise its discretion, on logical and unbiased parameters to decide upon permitting a particular place to be used as a centre of protest,” the bench added after recording the places allocated for such protests. The places were Valluvar Kottam, Quaid-e-Millath Manimandapam, Binny Link Road, Chintadripet and near the State Guest House, Chepauk.
Even as the judges came out with different orders while concurring with their stand on the Marina not being made a venue for protest, they held, “The protesters who claim to espouse the cause of the public, often forget that their right to protest ends when the other person’s right to free movement and ‘right to not to listen to’ starts.”
“A citizen has no fundamental right to insist that his speech should be heard by an unwilling citizen. Similarly, it is not possible to compel a person to witness a procession, against his wishes,” the bench added quoting extensively from various Supreme Court orders.