The prohibitory orders imposed in Bengaluru under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on December 18 in view of CAAProtest are “illegal” and cannot stand scrutiny of law”, held the High Court of Karnataka on Thursday.
The Section 144 order was imposed on December 18 last year, in the wake of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Two days after the prohibitory order was passed, the High Court had taken up for hearing a challenge filed against the same. On that date, the Court said it would look into the legality of the Section 144 order.
The case concerned the legality of order passed under section 144, by the Bengaluru Police Commmssioner on December 18 banning all public rallies, which were to be held on December 19, against the Citizenship Amendment Act, in Bengaluru.
The Bench headed by Chief Justice Abhay S Oka also posed a volley of questions to Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi, who appeared for the state government. These included:
“When permission for carrying out protests was given to certain organisations, then how can it be canceled overnight?
Can a sweeping order under Section 144 cancel an already granted permission?
Can the state go under the assumption that every protest will disturb the peace?”
Petitions were filed in the Karnataka High Court by Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Rajeev Gowda, Member of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, Sowmya Reddy, and others. The petitions have prayed for quashing of the order passed by the state government on December 18.
During the course of the hearings, the state government agreed to allow fresh applications for permission to conduct protests. The police would then consider these applications and decide them within 3-4 days, Navadgi had submitted before the Court.
After filing its statement of objections to the pleas, the state government on January 8 had stated before the Court that it was consistently respecting the people’s right to protest. It was also argued that the fundamental right to peaceful protest was subject to reasonable restrictions.
AG Navadgi further argued that Section 144 only placed temporary restrictions on the fundamental rights of the petitioners in order to ensure the safety of the public. He also stated that communications of the Divisional Deputy Commissioners were issued on the basis of various intelligence reports, which indicated that certain antisocial persons and organizations were planning to infiltrate the otherwise peaceful protests.
Senior advocate, Ravi Verma Kumar appearing for one of the petitioners, Leo Saldanha, and others, had argued that “The order passed is arbitrary and ex-facie illegal as there is no formation of opinion. Police can only regulate the rallies/dharnas or processions they cannot prohibit protest, it is a Fundamental Right of Citizen, guaranteed under article 19 of the Constitution of India.”