The Supreme Court Wednesday agreed to hear on March 3 an appeal of the Tamil Nadu government against the Madras High Court order permitting the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to take out a march in the state.
A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha took note of the submissions of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state government, that the plea needed an urgent hearing as the march is scheduled to commence from March 5.
“I am asking for a Friday hearing,” the senior lawyer said.
“We will keep it on Friday,” the bench said.
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Rohatgi said the state had refused permission to hold a march on roads in six districts keeping in mind the presence of PFI (Popular Front of India) and the law and order. The organisation was allowed to hold its function at closed spaces like stadiums in six districts but not a march on streets, he said, adding the single judge bench of the high court had agreed with the state’s decision. However, a division bench of the high court, on February 10, permitted the RSS to take out its route march in Tamil Nadu on rescheduled dates, and observed that protests are essential for a healthy democracy, the senior lawyer said. As the march is proposed to begin from March 5, the matter needed consideration before that, he said.
Earlier, the state government had moved the top court against the permission granted to RSS to take out its route march on rescheduled dates.
The state government, in its plea before the top court, said the route march would pose a law and order problem and sought a stay on the high court order.
Setting aside the order passed on November 4, 2022 by a single judge that had imposed conditions on the proposed state-wide route march asking the RSS to hold the march indoors or in enclosed space, the larger division bench court had 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 had 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.
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 high court had 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 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 conduct a public meeting on the same day.