Published on: 26 August 2023 at 17:00 IST
The Calcutta High Court emphasized that orders to restrict public movement and gatherings under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) should not be imposed hastily, asserting that careful consideration and reasoning are required.
The court’s stance came while granting permission to an opposition party in West Bengal to hold a political rally in Purba Medinipur on August 26.
Justice Jay Sengupta, presiding over the case, also reiterated the importance of a level playing field for all political parties when it comes to conducting rallies and processions.
Justice Sengupta highlighted, “Promulgation of an order under Section 144 of the CrPC cannot be done at the drop of a hat. It has to be done by exercising more care and circumspection and with better reasoning. After all, we are dealing with rights of the citizens of India.”
The bench, while quashing a Section 144(2) CrPC order and permitting the opposition party’s rally, emphasized that maintaining law and order is the responsibility of the administration and that equal opportunities should be provided for political activities.
The judge echoed previous observations made by Justice Rajasekhar Mantha in March, reiterating the need for equal space for all political ideologies in West Bengal.
In the case at hand, the opposition party initially sought permission for a rally on August 19, which was denied due to a ‘law and order’ situation and a Section 144(2) CrPC order. The rally was rescheduled for August 26 but was again hindered by the same order.
The petitioner, the party’s mandal president, approached the High Court, claiming that the state authorities were suppressing democratic rights by misusing Section 144 orders.
The petitioner argued that similar orders were not imposed in areas with recent election violence, indicating the malicious intent behind the order.
After reviewing a State report indicating normalcy in the rally’s proposed location, the bench ordered the authorities to allow the rally on August 26.
The court emphasized that the circumstances did not warrant the prohibition of a political rally.