SC remits back to AP HC state govt’s plea against order on ban on rallies on roads

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday remitted back to the Andhra Pradesh High Court an appeal of the state government against a recent directive of the high court, suspending the operation of an executive order that prohibited public meetings and rallies on roads, including national highways.

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha took note of the submissions made by senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan, who appeared in court on behalf of the Andhra Pradesh government, and requested the chief justice of the high court to ensure the hearing of the plea by a division bench headed by him.

At the outset of a brief hearing, Vaidyanathan referred to the sequence of events in the high court and highlighted the procedural infirmities.

“This is an egregious violation by the vacation bench (of the high court). How can the vacation bench say so,” the senior lawyer said, adding that according to the procedure, no matter pertaining to the policy decisions of a state government can be taken up and decided by a vacation bench of a high court.

Vaidyanathan said the plea on the state government’s decision was mentioned during the winter vacation and the order was stayed by the high court on the same day.

“We will request the chief justice of the high court to ensure hearing of the matter by a division bench of the high court presided over by him on January 23,” the CJI said, adding that the matter is being sent back to the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

Lawyer Mahfooz Ahsan Nazki also appeared in court on behalf of the Andhra Pradesh government.

The apex court had, on January 18, agreed to hear the state government’s appeal, challenging the high court’s directive that suspended the operation of a government order prohibiting public meetings and rallies on roads, including national highways.

On January 12, the high court suspended till January 23 the operation of the government order (GO) that barred public meetings and rallies on state roads and national highways.

“Court is prima facie of the opinion that the impugned GO No.1 is contrary to the procedure provided under section 30 of the Police Act, 1861,” it held.

The high court had passed the interim order on a writ petition filed by Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary K Ramakrishna challenging the GO and posted the case for further hearing on Friday (January 20). It had sought the state government’s response before that.

The petitioner has contended before the high court that the GO was brought to “stifle” the opposition’s voice against the state government.

The Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh had issued the order on January 2 midnight, in the wake of a stampede at a rally organised by the main opposition Telugu Desam Party at Kandukuru on December 28, in which eight people were killed.

The prohibitory order (GO No.1) was issued under the provisions of the Police Act, 1861 and the state police immediately started implementing it. 

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