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Banning protests during elections violates people's fundamental rights: Petition in SC

By Our Representative 

A Supreme Court bench of Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta has heard a writ petition filed by Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey (photo), in their capacity as members of 'Rajasathan Election Watch', in order to bring to the notice of the court the practice across the country of district magistrates issuing blanket prohibition orders under Section 144 of the CrPC for the duration of the elections on the sole ground of conduct of the ongoing general elections.
It has also been said that this notification will be effective from 17th April to 7th May. They claim that it has come out so that the election process goes on peacefully and people remain fear-free. Some points to consider in this regard:
Senior apex court advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioners, argued that such blanket orders completely undermine democracy in the name of democracy, causing grave hindrance to legitimate civil society actors seeking to campaign, mobilise or carry out yatras to educate voters on democracy etc. He also told the court that this appears to be a recent phenomenon, as noticed only from the state elections in Rajasthan last year.
The court issued notice and sought replies from the Union, States and the Election Commission of India within two weeks, and said that, in the interim, any application for permission from any person for any yatra or procession or meeting or the like, the competent authority must decide within three days.
Prashant Bhushan was assisted by advocates Prasanna S, Cheryl Dsouza, Sai Vinod, Deeksha Dwivedi, Swati Arya and Rahul Gupta. Petitioner Nikhil Dey was also present in person in the court.
If the leaders have the right to hold rallies, citizens have the right to protest against them
As Counterview reported, Ahmedabad police commissioner came up with the allegedly "anti-democratic stance" on April 16, issuing a notification enforcing Section-144 of the Criminal Procedure Act-1973 in the whole city and said that "no one shall unfurl black placards or display inflammatory banners or play cards or incite any protest and shout slogans during any propaganda rally."
The notification will be effective from April 17 to May 7, with the claim that there is a need to conduct the election process smoothly and peacefully, so that people remain fear-free. Protesting against the move, activist-economist Hemant Shah said, "It is not understood how peace will be breached if citizens raise black flags against the ruling party to voice their issues."
Claiming that the notification comes into effect to counter the current Rajput agitation across Gujarat against BJP's decision to put up Purshottam Rupala from Rajkot, Shah said, "Freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right of citizens enshrined in Article 19(a) of the Constitution and, the notification violates it."
He underlined, "If the leaders have the right to hold rallies, citizens have the right to protest against them. The notification is an attempt and conspiracy to undermine that right."



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