Free speech Tracker|
|Don’t restrain anti-nuclear activists: HC|
In a victory for anti-Jaitapur nuclear plant activists who claimed their fundamental rights to speech and movement were being trampled upon, the Bombay high court directed the state government not to restrain them from entering Ratnagiri district.
A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Roshan Dalvi heard a petition filed by retired HC judges P B Sawant, Justice B G Kolse-Patil and activist Vaishali Patil. The district magistrate passed orders on the report of the superintendent of Ratnagiri stating that there was a possible law and order problem at the proposed site and that they were provoking villages.
The orders were passed in October 2010, December 2010 and March 2011 under section 144 (unlawful assembly) of the Criminal Procedure Code.
S K Sen, their advocate, argued that restrictions on freedom of speech and movement could not be imposed on the ground of a law and order problem. He said such orders can be made for over six months and that the state government was acting illegally and restraining them from going to Jaitapur since over a year.
"Section 144 violates fundamental rights. You cannot use it all the time. It is dishonest use of power. I am entitled to voice my view,'' said Sen.
The judges remarked that former President A P J Abdul Kalam recently approved the setting up of nuclear plants. "He should put it in his backyard. I (petitioners) have a right to voice my grievance,'' said Sen.
Additional government pleader Sandeep Shinde said the magistrate had relied on the SP's report that Kolse-Patil had made spoken against the PM.
The judges ruled that "merely because some untoward incidents had occurred, it could not be a ground for not granting permission in future. The judges said the petitioners do not deserve to be restrained on the ground that in the past orders were passed under Section 144.
The judges noted that the plea raised the issue of fundamental rights. They said that as far as holding public meetings was concerned, the petitioners would apply to the authorities, who would consider it in accordance with the law.