The Madras High Court on Friday permitted the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to take out its route march in Tamil Nadu on rescheduled dates, and observed that protests are essential for healthy democracy.
Setting aside the order passed on November 4, 2022, order by a single judge that had imposed conditions on the proposed statewide route march asking the RSS to hold the march indoors or in enclosed space, the court restored the order dated September 22, 2022, which directed the Tamil Nadu police to consider the RSS' representation seeking permission to conduct the march and a public meeting, as well, and to grant permission for the same.
Accordingly, it directed the appellants to approach the state authorities with three different dates of their choice for the purpose of holding the route march/peaceful procession and the state authorities were directed to grant permission to them on one of the chosen dates out of the three.
"Therefore, in the given factual matrix and applying the aforesaid legal proposition, we are of the view that the state authorities must act in a manner to uphold the fundamental right to freedom of speech, expression and assembly as regarded one of the most sacrosanct and inviolable rights envisaged in our Constitution," a bench comprising Justices R Mahadevan and Mohammed Shaffiq observed.
"The State's approach towards citizens' right can never be adversarial in a welfare State and it must be considered for granting permission for peaceful rallies, protest, processions or meeting so as to maintain a healthy democracy where the constitution reigns supreme and the fundamental rights of citizens are placed at a lofty pedestal," the bench further said.
"The order dated November 4, 2022, passed in the contempt petitions, is set aside, and the order dated September 22, 2022, passed in the writ petitions stand restored and would be enforceable. As the dates on which the appellants wanted to conduct the route march, have passed, it is only appropriate that a direction be issued in this regard," the bench said.
Also, the RSS was asked to ensure strict discipline and make sure there is no provocation or incitement on their part during the march. The state, on its part, should take adequate safety measures and make traffic arrangements to ensure the procession and the meeting are held peacefully, the bench said.
Challenging the single judge order, the RSS sought a direction to the authorities to permit their members to conduct the procession wearing their uniform (dark olive green trousers, white shirt, cap, belt, black shoes) through various routes throughout the state.
The organisation had earlier sought permission for the route march to commemorate the 75th year of Independence, the birth centenary of Bharat Ratna B R Ambedkar and Vijayadasami festival, on October 2, 2022, at various places and to also to conduct a public meeting on the same day.