Andhra HC suspends government order banning public meetings on roads

The Andhra Pradesh High Court has suspended GO 1 till January 23 and directed the government to file a counter by January 20.
Andhra High Court
Andhra High Court
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The Andhra Pradesh High Court suspended GO 1, an order issued by the state government prohibiting public meetings on roads, till January 23 and directed the government to file a counter by January 20 before the regular bench. A PIL has been filed by CPI secretary Ramakrishna challenging the GO 1. The lawyer who presented on behalf of the petitioner said that freedom of expression and fundamental rights of the people have been preserved with the GO issued. The arguments were heard by the vacation bench headed by Justice Battu Devanand. 

The AP government had issued the GO restricting public meetings and road shows on state and national highways. The order was issued in light of 11 deaths that took place due to stampedes at public meetings held in Nellore and Guntur, organised by the TDP’s supremo Nara Chandrababu Naidu. 

Raising objections to the PIL, Advocate General Shriram stated that the PIL is engineered to suit the vacation bench hearing. AG further pointed out that the government has no information about the PIL submitted by Ramakrishna. He strongly opposed stating that there is no scope for the matter related to the policy decision of the government to be included in the roster. He further added that the vacation bench should not hear the cases related to the policy decisions.

Bringing in more clarity on GO 1, the AG argued that the word ban or prohibition on meetings has not been mentioned anywhere in the GO. He said “All the governments so far have been acting only under the Police Act. Courts should not read motivated newspapers. There has been propaganda unleashed by leaders about the ban on processions and road shows, which is incorrect.”

"Municipal roads and panchayat roads are narrow and are meant for free movement of the people staying in the local area and any obstruction due to meetings on these roads endangers lives, disrupts the civic life, emergency services, causing inconvenience to the general public. Only in rare and exceptional circumstances, and for reasons to be recorded in writing, the applications for grant of permission for public meetings may be considered," reads the GO.

Through the GO, Principal Secretary, Home, Harish Kumar Gupta has asked the respective district administration and police machinery to identify "designated places away from public roads for conduct of public meetings, which do not hamper the flow of traffic, public movement, emergency services, movement of essential commodities, etc."

With IANS inputs

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