‘Democratic rights can be safeguarded only by people’s movements’

Hariparanthaman says many British era laws continue to remain in force

December 05, 2017 07:08 pm | Updated February 03, 2018 01:56 pm IST

 Making a point: D. Hariparanthaman, former Judge, Madras High Court, delivering a lecture in Madurai on Monday.

Making a point: D. Hariparanthaman, former Judge, Madras High Court, delivering a lecture in Madurai on Monday.

Pointing out that the democratic sphere in the country was shrinking every day, D. Hariparanthaman, former Judge, Madras High Court, said judiciary could not be trusted in safeguarding democratic rights and it could be done only through effective people’s movements.

Delivering a lecture on ‘Draconian laws and shrinking democratic sphere’ here on Monday, he said Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, despite being lawyers, did not approach the courts during British Raj to resolve any of the key issues with the government.

“Similarly, access for Dalit people to places like Vaikom temple and Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple was not earned through court, but through people’s movements,” he said.

Mr. Hariparanthaman also argued by pointing to many examples that the judiciary, coupled with archaic and oppressive laws, failed to uphold the rights of people on several occasions.

Stating that a majority of laws enacted during the British Raj continued to remain in force even after Independence, unless they were in contravention of the Constitution, he said that some of these laws like the Madras City Police Act of 1888 and the sedition and criminal defamations sections in the Indian Penal Code were extensively used to suppress the rights of people.

“For instance, though the Constitution guarantees right to peaceful assembly, it has been curtailed in Tamil Nadu through the prohibitory order issued under Section 41 (2) of the Madras City Police Act that demands prior approval from the police for any meeting. It is only through this the police deny permission for many meetings, particularly those by organisations that are critical of the government,” he said.

He also expressed his criticism of the judiciary in handling cases related to democratic protests by workers’ unions, including the recent strike by government nurses in Chennai against their paltry salary.

The meeting was organised by Justice Shivaraj V. Patil Foundation in association with People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). A book on V.R. Lakshminarayanan, former Director General of Police of Tamil Nadu, penned by journalist B. Thirumalai and brought out by Society for Community Organisation Trust, was released by Mr. Hariparanthaman.

R. Murali, general secretary, PUCL (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry), presided over the function.

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