The Hyderabad High Court pulled up the Telangana government for curbing dissent and said that it had to make its stance clear in 15 days, on the continuation of Dharna Chowk at Indira Park in Hyderabad, a popular venue of protests in the city.
Coming down heavily on the state government, the court was quoted as saying, “The protests have to be held in the people’s presence. Indira Park is in existence for the past several decades and residences have came up later and this is India; you cannot curtail the protest voices of people. What is the use if people protest in remote places? What is the use in installing cell towers in forests when animals do not use the cell phones?”
The comments were made by a division bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice V. Ramasubramanian while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which challenged the state government’s move of refusing to accord permission to protest, within the city’s limits.
“This is India. The Constitution has guaranteed right to speech to the citizens of this country. The government cannot curb it. If inconvenience is caused to others because of such protests, then the government can impose reasonable restrictions as per the law,” the bench added.
‘Dharna Chowk’ has been the venue of thousands of protests by political parties, people’s organisations, students’ groups, employees’ unions and others for over two decades.
Last year, Chief Minister Chandrasekhar Rao had defended the police’s move to shift ‘Dharna Chowk’ to the outskirts of the city saying that some parties were deliberately creating problems in the name of protests.
Proposing a handful of alternate sites on the outskirts of the city, CM KCR had argued that the venue of protests did not matter, since the Opposition would be able to highlight issues through the media.
However, opposition parties and activists pointed out that KCR himself, had repeatedly protested at Dharna Chowk during the Telangana agitation for separate statehood and accused him of trying to curb dissent. #KhabarLive