Supreme Court: ‘Protest is Tool in Hands of Civil Society’

Supreme Court Law Insider

Aastha Thakur

Published on: 10 November 2022 at 11:22 IST

Supreme Court of India remarked that protest is a “tool in the hands of the civil society” just as “strike is a weapon in the hands of the workmen”.

The court was dealing with the appeal plea filed by one, Ravi Namboothiri, against the Kerala High Court’s decision that upheld trial court ruling setting aside his election as councillor in the Gram Panchayat in November 2015.

Bench of Justices S Abdul Nazeer and V. Ramasubramanian stated that the Kerala Police Act repealed a number of colonial-era police enactments with objective to crush the aspirations of the native population for democracy.

His election to the post was annulled on the grounds that he had indulged in corrupt behaviour and had omitted from his nomination form his involvement in a criminal case.

Further, the court said, “Just as strike is a weapon in the hands of the workmen and lockout is a weapon in the hands of the employer under labour welfare legislations, protest is a tool in the hands of the civil society and police action is a tool in the hands of the Establishment.”

“All State enactments such as Kerala Police Act, Madras Police Act etc, are aimed at better regulation of the police force and they do not create substantive offences,”

The bench said, “This is why these Acts themselves empower the police to issue necessary directions for the maintenance of law and order and the violation of any of those directions is made a punishable offence under these Acts,”

According to a police statement, on September 20, 2006, Namboothiri and others assembled an illegal assembly, entered the Annamanada Gram Panchayat’s office complex forcibly, and made a makeshift shed to hold a “dharna.”

The appellant was proven guilty of crimes covered by both the Kerala Police Act and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Later, a sessions court overturned his conviction for violating certain IPC provisions. But it affirmed his conviction under the Kerala Police Act and ordered him to pay a Rs 200 fine.

The apex court said while offences under the IPC or under special enactments such as the Prevention of Corruption Act and Arms Act are substantive offences, the commission of which may make a person a criminal, an offence under certain enactments such as Kerala Police Act are not substantive offences.

The court said, “Once the object behind the provisions of the Kerala Police Act are understood, it would be clear that neither Section 52(1A) read with Rule 6 and Form 2A nor Section 102(1)(CA) of the Act nor the decisions in the Association for Democratic Reforms, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties…”

“…..can be stretched to such an extent that the failure of the appellant to disclose his conviction for an offence under the Kerala Police Act for holding a dharna in front of the Panchayat office is taken as a ground for declaring an election void,”

The Kerala Police Act is “actually the successor legislation of certain police enactments of the colonial era, whose object was to scuttle the democratic aspirations of the indigenous population”, the apex court said.

The court also said to pay attention to this aspect before blindly applying the principle ‘what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander”,

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