State's appeal against High Court order dismissed

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the judgment of the Kerala High Court prohibiting public meetings by the roadsides in the State.

A Bench of Justice D.K. Jain and Justice H.L. Dattu dismissed an appeal filed by the State government against the judgment of the High Court and a subsequent petition seeking a review of the judgment. The Bench said it was not inclined to interfere with the impugned judgment.

Appearing for the State, senior counsel Soli Sorabjee submitted that the impugned judgment interfered with the government's powers under the police Act.

He said a blanket ban on holding of meetings by the roadside would pose hardship to Sabarimala pilgrims in particular as temple/ mosque functions were held on road margins. He said even Republic Day functions were held by the roadside.

Justice Dattu asked the counsel how the government could allow such meetings on road margins when the roads were narrow.

He said the judgment, in fact, had given more powers to the Chief Secretary and wondered why the State had preferred the appeal.

Acting on a writ petition filed by Khalid Mundappilly of Aluva, near here, alleging that political parties were organising public meetings on the public road in front of the Aluva railway station bringing halt to traffic for hours, the High Court had passed the order prohibiting such meetings.

In its order, the High Court had observed that the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression or to assemble guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) and (b) of the Constitution did not entitle anyone to hold meetings on public roads or road margins.

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