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SC declines to consider AP govt's plea on stay against order on rallies on roads

By Lawstreet News Network      Jan 20, 2023      0 Comments
SC declines to consider AP govt's plea on stay against order on rallies on roads

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain a plea by the Andhra Pradesh government against the High Court's order of January 12 which stayed the state's guidelines regulating public meetings and rallies on roads and national highways.

A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha pointed out that the matter has been posted before a division bench of the High Court on Monday, January 23.

"It is open for the parties to raise all their contentions there," the bench said.

"We are not inquiring into merits of the matter. We request the division bench set up by the Chief Justice of the High Court to hear the matter on January 23," the bench added.

Appearing for the Andhra Pradesh government, senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan questioned an egregious assumption of jurisdiction by a vacation bench, even after there was a circular which stated that no policy and administrative matters would be taken up during the winter break.

The writ petition was mentioned and heard on the same date, he contended.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Raju Ramachandran, appearing for the other side, however, submitted that the Advocate General of the State was heard before passing of the order by the division bench.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court on January 12 suspended till January 23 operation of the Government Order (GO) that prohibited conduct of public meetings and rallies on roads, including national highways.

Terming the order as prima facie, illegal, unsustainable, and arbitrary, the state government, in its plea, said recently on December 28, 2022, 8 people died during a stampede in a political roadshow held in Kandakuru, Nellore District.

“The State was thus prompted to issue the GO on January 2, wherein it clarified/emphasized the considerations to be taken by the police while regulating public meetings / demonstrations under Section 30 of the Indian Police Act, 1861," the plea said.

The Andhra Pradesh Police Department was advised to refrain from granting permissions for such public meetings unless adequate and exceptional reasons were provided by the person seeking permission to conduct such a meeting.

"The GO is merely a set of clarificatory guidelines regarding exercise of power by the police under Section 30 of the Police Act. It does not ban public assembly, either directly or indirectly. Instead, it merely reasonably regulates it. The recent instances of both fatalities and public inconvenience indicate that public safety and interest mandate that such meetings be avoided, unless in exceptional circumstances, and the Impugned GO merely advises the police to ideally act accordingly,” the plea said.

The High Court passed its order on a plea contending the move was intended to stifle the opposition voices.

The state government said "In the event the stay on the operation of the GO, as granted by the High Court is not vacated immediately, the people of the state will be allowed to hold political rallies, roadshows, processions and large scale meetings on the roads of the State, without any regulatory oversight. This will lead to recurrence of incidents such as the stampede that killed 8 people on 28.12.2022."

"It is the duty of the State to take measures to avoid such loss of life. It will also burden public infrastructure and cause major inconveniences in the lives of the citizens. The State apprehends that during the stay of the GO, many such meetings will be held that the public’s health, safety, interest and convenience will be sacrificed if the order is not stayed immediately," it added.

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