The Chennai city police have renewed prohibitory orders for gatherings under Section 41 of the Madras Police Act even as a legal challenge to it was brought before the Madras High Court on Monday. Activists have questioned the purpose of law that prohibits gatherings, citing various reasons. Since the nationwide protests against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act began in December last year, the city police have been detaining and filing cases against protesters under sections of the Act.
In a statement to the press on Monday, Chennai police Commissioner AK Vishwanathan stood by orders "regulating processions, demonstrations, fasts, human chain, meetings, assemblies, etc. within Greater Chennai Police jurisdiction" for a period of 15 days beginning 6 pm on January 28 and ending at 6 pm on February 12.
"Intending applicants are advised to apply five days clear in advance to enable processing of the requests." the order read.
Activists pointed out in court on Monday that the city police were citing various reasons to repeatedly re-issue these orders. The city police have previously claimed that fasts, protests and demonstrations could lead to an obstruction of traffic, cause public inconvenience and disrupt law and order.
Justice P Rajamanickam was hearing a writ petition filed by lawyer and human rights activist Gayatri Khandhadai who argued that the prohibitory orders, issued every 15 days, restricted the constitutional right of citizens to gather and protest peacefully in a democracy.
Last month, eight persons including activist Gayatri were detained by the police for drawing kolams on a street in Besant Nagar against the CAA. Although the protesters had informed that they would be drawing kolams on Fourth Main Road in Besant Nagar, they were detained by the city police at a nearby community hall for unlawful assembly. Similarly, the massive DMK-led protest against the law also saw thousands being booked under the Madras Police Act.