in Constitutional Law
Asked January 27, 2014

Peaceful Dharna

  • 1 Answer

I want to know what can i do to hold a peaceful dharna that can be said to be guaranteed under my right to peaceful demonstration as enshrined under Art. 19(2)of the Constitution in case some people just in order to cause annoyance put forward a petition in the court saying that there is a potential to cause unrest or danger to peace and tranquility? How can i ensure that my dharna continues without being booked u,der section 144 CrPC?

Answer 1

A citizen's right to organise a meeting, an assembly or a protest demonstration is increasingly being infringed upon. Either a meeting is not permitted or a request for permission to organise a meeting goes unanswered. A protest demonstration is sought to be prevented either by the imposition of prohibition orders in the area concerned or the relevant routs are not permitted.

The Constitution of India in Article 19(1) (b) guarantees "the right to assemble peaceably without arms". The aforesaid right is subject to reasonable restrictions. These restrictions can be imposed by law when the sovereignty of India or public order are threatened.

Sec 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code permits the State to act when "immediate prevention or speedy remedy" is desirable. But this can be done only after the State has provided all the relevant reasons. No order under this section can remain in force for more then. two months.

Since the State is increasingly misusing its powers under this section, the validity of orders can be challenged on the grounds that no "immediate prevention or speedy remedy" was required. The injury or annoyance which any person is alleged to be contemplating has to be real and substantive. Before such an order is passed against a citizen, he must be heard. The action prohibited under this section must be a tangible one. Since the state governments have generally been reissuing these orders after every two months, various High Courts have held such a renewal as illegal. They have considered it an unreasonable restriction of the Constitutional right to assemble peaceably.

The provisions of various state legislations like the Delhi Police Act, Bombay Police Act, Mysore Police Act, Madras City Police Act, Madhya Bharat Police Act, Travancore-Cochin Police Act are also being used to prevent the holding of meetings and assemblies.

It has been held that the right to hold a meeting or a demonstration involves the Constitutional right of every citizen-of assembly under Article 19(l)(b), of expression under Article 19 (l)(a), and of free movement throughout the territory of India under Article 19 (l)(d).

These rights can be regulated only in specific circumstances and on grounds that are unexceptionable for protecting the sovereignty and integrity of India and maintaining public order. In fact, the Supreme Court (in Himmat Lal vs. Police Commissioner, Ahmedabad) held a section of the Bombay Police Act void as it did not specify the grounds under which the concerned officer could restrict the right of citizens to assemble and move freely.

Similarly refusing meetings on the ground of "public order" must be done carefully. The threat to public order must be distinguished from a threat to "law and order". For a threat to "public order" can arise only when a total collapse of the State machinery is imminent.

To sum up, there can be no complete denial of the citizen's right to hold a meeting or a demonstration. And in every case where a citizen feels that these rights are being denied to him either completely or with restriction he is very much free to approach the judiciary.

In your case you may simply forward an application to the nearest Police Station asking permission for conducting a peaceful dharma, giving all the details of the same. Further, if the administration is rejecting your application without any reasonable justification then you may file a suit in the District Court. Also, as in your case since someone has already filed a suit against you so I would suggest you to wait for the hearing to end and present your case with the help of a legal representative.

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