ANDHRA PRADESH

CPI (M) files PIL on user charges

Staff Reporter

VIJAYAWADA: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) will challenge in the High Court the collection of "user charges" by the city police for according permission to conduct rallies and meetings by political parties and other voluntary organisations.

According to city secretary of CPI (M) R. Raghu, the police are collecting Rs. 100 to permit the use of loudspeakers, Rs. 250 for rallies and Rs. 1,000 for granting permission to hold a meeting in a hall. Five times the normal amount is being collected for granting permission, if an application is made less than 48 hours before the event. This is burdensome and tantamount to curtailing democratic freedom.

Mr Raghu said at a press conference here on Saturday that the police were collecting only Rs. 4 for loudspeaker permission till 2002.

"We take up many issues of public interest at the spur of the movement. No user charges are being collected for meetings held in closed doors in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, but the police are insisting on payment of user charges here," Mr Raghu said.

Standing instructions had been issued to all auditorium owners not to let out the halls to political meetings unless a `no objection certificate' (NOC) was produced. User charges were being slapped on the political parties when they were approaching the police for the NOC.

Half a dozen self-defeating conditions making the applicant liable for violation were listed in the permit. So a public interest litigation was filed in the High Court by the party's legal counsel on Friday, he said.