Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ban on roadside meetings flawed: Ninan Koshy

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Social commentator and rights campaigner Ninan Koshy has termed �flawed and �infirm the June 23 Kerala High Court judgment �prohibiting the government and its agencies from granting permission to hold meetings on public roads and road margins and said the order would curtail a democratic right.

In a statement here on Sunday, Dr. Koshy pointed out that the order was passed accepting practically all the arguments of the petitioner, making them the conclusions of the court and denying opportunity or permission to the respondents to present their views or even give explanations.

What the High Court could have done to deliver justice to the petitioner was to give instructions to the government that permission should be given to meetings on the roads and their margins only on condition that they do not obstruct traffic and cause inconvenience to the public. The court could have stated that this should apply to the whole of the State.

Thousands of meetings are held in villages and towns across the State, mainly at junctions and margins of roads. These are the venues for dissemination and propagation of ideas and views. By prohibiting them, rather than putting necessary restrictions on them, the court is curtailing fundamental rights of speech and expression and of peaceable assembly enshrined in the Constitution. There is no reference to any constitutional provision or legislation under which the order is issued, Dr. Koshy said.

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