Stays police order denying permission on YMCA grounds

Ending uncertainty over the venue just hours ahead of the beginning of a conference of the Tamil Eelam Supporters’ Organisation (TESO), the Madras High Court on Sunday stayed an order of the city police denying permission to hold the conference at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) grounds, Royapettah here, and permitted the organisers to go ahead with the meet as planned in the same venue.

After the Joint Commissioner of Police (East) passed an order on Friday denying permission to conduct the conference at the proposed venue, J Anbalagan, MLA and member, TESO, filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court. On Saturday, a single judge, who heard the matter, referred it to a Division Bench.

A special sitting of division bench comprising Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and M.Venugopal was held on Sunday.

P.Wilson, senior counsel for the petitioner, said the Joint Commissioner had not given any opportunity before passing the impugned order of rejection. The police had relied on an over-enthusiastic statement by a party functionary in his individual capacity that more than one lakh people would attend the conference.

He said only 2,500 invitations had been distributed and not more than 8,000 would attend it.

However, the Advocate General, A. Navaneethakrishnan, submitted that as per the press releases issued by DMK functionaries, more than one lakh people would throng the conference. In that situation, public safety and tranquillity would be in danger, besides there being the possibility of a stampede.

He submitted that even the intelligence reports did not support conduct of any such conference.

After hearing the submissions, the Judges said, “In the impugned order, the Joint Commissioner of Police has nowhere mentioned the distance between the Royapettah Government Hospital and the venue so as to assess as to whether there is any truth attached to the stand taken by him that if the proposed meeting is permitted, it will cause disturbance or nuisance to the in-patients of the hospital.”

“He also has not properly taken into consideration the fact that from January 2010 till date, the YMCA ground witnessed many functions/seminars” said the Judges.

Pointing out the communications sent to the organisers by the Union Home Ministry and External Affairs Ministry, the Bench said, “When those ministries have given ‘No Objection’ for the conduct of the conference, we do not find any prima facie reason to reject the permission sought by the petitioner.”

After recording the petitioner’s stand that not more than 8,000 people would attend the conference, the Bench said it was in consonance with the capacity of the YMCA grounds, as noted and observed by the public works department.

In its interim order, the Bench imposed a condition that the petitioner should ensure that not more than 8,000 people assembled at any point of time during the conference and not more than 250 vehicles were allowed into the ground.

The noise emanating from the sound systems should not in any manner affect patients in the hospital.

The Commissioner of Police was also directed to take all necessary steps to ensure smooth conduct of conference so as to avoid any untoward incident in the locality.