The Supreme Court on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, dismissed the appeals filed by Tamil Nadu government against Madras High Court orders allowing the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) to conduct rallies in the State.
“All SLPs (special leave petitions) are dismissed,” Justice V. Ramasubramanian, heading the Bench which gave the judgment, said shortly as soon as the court assembled for the day.
A single Bench of the High Court allowed the route marches in September and went on to impose a few restrictions in November.
In February this year, a Division Bench of the High Court had removed the restrictions/conditions on the route marches
The Tamil Nadu government had filed a special leave petition against a September 22, 2022 order of the Single Judge of the Madras High Court allowing the RSS to conduct route marches.
The State had appealed the Division Bench order first in the apex court and followed it up by filing a separate appeal against the original Single Judge Bench order of September 2022.
Tamil Nadu had argued that the RSS cannot seek a carte blanche in conducting the marches. It said conducting route march through certain communally sensitive areas in the State would prove to be detrimental to law and order. It had named the presence of the banned Popular Front of India in Tamil Nadu, and said there were intelligence reports of threats and even possible attack on RSS route marches in some areas. The State said it had the authority to reasonably restrict freedoms in public interest to maintain law and order.
The RSS had however countered that the State cannot stop an organisation from holding peaceful marches for apprehensions about a banned outfit.
The High Court had previously agreed that the situation of security in the State offered a mixed bag.
But the apex court had indicated during the hearing that the State should not use its power over law and order to strike down the language of democracy which allows the holding of peaceful rallies.
The Division Bench of the High Court in February had also urged the State to “act in a manner to uphold the fundamental right to freedom of speech, expression and assembly as regarded one of the most sacrosanct and inviolable rights envisaged in our Constitution”.
“The State’s approach towards citizens’ right can never be adversarial in a welfare State and it must be considered for granting permission for peaceful rallies, protest, processions or meeting so as to maintain a healthy democracy where the constitution reigns supreme and the fundamental rights of citizens are placed at a lofty pedestal,” the High Court had observed.