The Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday, February 21, 2023, appealed the Supreme Court against a Madras High Court order allowing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to take out a route march in public places across Tamil Nadu to commemorate the 75th year of Independence, the birth centenary of Bharat Ratna B.R. Ambedkar and Vijayadasami festival.
The petition, filed through advocate Joseph Aristotle S., said such an event would pose a law and order problem in the State.
"We are of the view that the State authorities must 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," a Division Bench of the High Court had reasoned in its order early in February.
In its appeal, the State said it could impose “reasonable restrictions” on citizens’ fundamental rights of free speech and assembly in public interest under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
The petition said the restrictions were meant to protect the participants themselves from harm. The State said it had received intelligence reports of trouble brewing after the central ban on the Popular Front of India in September 2022. It said there have been instances of throwing of petrol bombs and clashes when RSS had conducted similar events in other States.
The Division Bench had set aside a November 2022 order of a Single Judge imposing conditions on the proposed march.
The petition is likely to be mentioned on Wednesday for urgent hearing in the Supreme Court. The State may seek an interim stay of the High Court order.
“The State’s approach towards citizens’ rights can never be adversarial in a welfare State and it must be considered for granting permission for peaceful rallies, protest, processions or meetings 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.