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Madras HC Upholds Right to Campaign as Fundamental Right

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Published on: 5 August 2023 at 16:59 IST

The Madras High Court affirmed the fundamental right of individuals to peacefully campaign for elections.

The case involved petitioner Habeeb Mohamed and multiple respondents, including government officials, police personnel, and individuals.

The matter revolved around allegations against the eighth respondent, Karuppu @ Muruganantham, who was campaigning for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the Thanjavur constituency.

He reportedly faced obstruction from a group of Muslims in the Mallipattinam village, preventing him from canvassing.

Justice G.R. Swaminathan, presiding over the case, emphasized the significance of the right to campaign, stating that while the right to vote is a statutory right, the right to seek votes is a fundamental right.

Democracy being a basic feature of the Constitution, seeking votes is protected under Article 19(1)(a), (b), and (d) of the Indian Constitution, encompassing freedom of speech and expression, the right to peaceful assembly, and the right to move freely throughout India.

Justice Swaminathan stressed that free and effective campaigning is vital for democracy, and any attempt to hinder candidates’ exercise of this right will be firmly dealt with.

Referring to a recent Supreme Court decision (Kaushal Kishor v. State of UP), the High Court clarified that fundamental rights can be enforced against individuals, not just the State or its instrumentalities.

Therefore, the right of Karuppu @ Muruganantham to campaign was deemed to have been infringed by certain villagers in Mallipattinam.

However, the court clarified that it does not have the authority to decide on the factual aspects of the case or award compensation.

It directed the petitioner to approach the competent trial court under Section 357 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr. P.C) to seek compensation at the conclusion of the trial.

The case name is “Habeeb Mohamed Vs The Home Secretary,” and it was presided over by Justice G.R. Swaminathan.