The Andhra government’s order, passed on January 2 in response to two fatal stampedes within a week in the state, had been challenged by the Secretary, Community Party of India, Andhra Pradesh for being violative of Article 19(1)(a) and (b) of the Constitution.
THE Andhra Pradesh High Court has stayed the Government Order (‘GO’) issued on January 2 prohibiting/restricting public meetings/assemblies on roads, roadsides and road margins throughout the state. A division bench comprising Justices Battu Devanand and Dr. V.R.K. Krupa Sagar passed the interim order to this effect on Thursday.
Justice Devanand is under consideration for transfer to the Madras High Court as the Supreme Court Collegium made a recommendation to this effect on November 24.
The GO is to remain suspended till January 23, the bench directed.
The bench found the GO prima facie contrary to the procedure provided under Section 30 of the Police Act, 1861.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Kaka Ramakrishna, the Secretary of the Communist Party of India, Andhra Pradesh, challenging the GO as being illegal, arbitrary and violative of Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(b) of the Constitution.
On January 2, the state government issued the GO, citing an incident that occurred at Kandukuru on December 28 last year wherein eight persons were allegedly found dead in a stampede during a political rally by Telugu Desam Party (‘TDP’) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu. It also relied on a similar incident that occurred again on January 1, in which three women were crushed to death and at least 18 were left injured during the distribution of freebies in Guntur by the TDP.
The petitioner contended that the government’s order indirectly imposed a complete ban on the conduct of public meetings/processions on public roads. It required the authorities under Section 30 of the Police Act not to grant licence to conduct public meetings on national highways, state highways, municipal roads and panchayat roads.
“The basic rights of the people and the organizations are being curtailed and the permissions are not being granted by the Police officials under the pretext of the impugned GO. The impugned GO is issued by the 1st Respondent only to stifle the voice of the opposition and other Political parties and to deny them the right to conduct public meetings. The impugned GO imposes blanket ban on organizing meetings on public roads without dealing with the aspect of law and order problem”, the petition read.
The petitioner argued that conducting a public meeting is a fundamental right bestowed upon any citizen of this country.
“The voice of the opposition is the lifeline of any Democratic nation. By issuing the impugned GO, the Respondents are choosing to stifle the voice of the opposition by failing to provide necessary permissions”, the petitioner submitted.