The Madras High Court on Tuesday said the general secretary of Thamizh Thesiya Viduthalai Iyakkam, K.Thiagarajan, could choose either Chepauk or Valluvar Kottam to go on a fast in support of his demands, which included expelling Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth.

Justice K.K.Sasidharan agreed with the city police’s contention that if the fast is permitted on the Marina, as sought for by Mr.Thiagarajan, it would cause traffic problems. The beach attracted several tourists and the functioning of various offices such as Madras University and Secretariat would be affected in case traffic comes to a standstill on the artery. Therefore, it is not possible to permit the petitioner to undertake a fast on the Marina. The petitioner should be given liberty to choose an alternative location either opposite the State Guest House at Chepauk or Valluvar Kottam.

Mr.Thiagarajan sought to quash an order of the Chennai Police of September 19 denying him permission to go on an indefinite fast on the Marina from October 1 to press his demands, including that the CHOGM meeting should not be held in Colombo, and if it is held in the Sri Lankan capital, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, should not attend it.

Mr.Justice Sasidharan said there was no dispute that the police had a duty to maintain law and order, but while rejecting the request for permission, the police should indicate briefly the reasons for doing so. The State having allowed similar form of protests earlier could not take a different yardstick now. The police had enough power to impose reasonable restrictions to ensure the safety and convenience of the people at large. It appears to have taken a policy decision to ban public meetings and other agitations, fearing possible law and order problem. Each case should be decided by police considering the peculiar factual situation.

However, the decision should not be arbitrary. Setting aside the impugned order, Mr.Justice Sasidharan issued a set of directions which included that the petitioner should give an undertaking that he would not initiate violence while organising meetings in connection with the fast. The petitioner should inform the police about the selection of location.

The Commissioner should give permission by 6 p.m. on October 1 by imposing necessary conditions.

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