Tripura High Court: Akil Kureshi, CJ., decided on a matter wherein the petitioners had prayed for quashing and setting aside various first information reports filed against the petitioners in relation to the alleged incidents of 25-11-2020 of blocking the National Highway No.8 during the 12 hours Tripura bandh called by an organization referred to as Tripura People’s Front (TPF, for short). The FIRs were registered for offences under Sections 143, 341, 506 etc. IPC read with Section 8-B of the National Highway Act, 1956.
Petitioners stated that on 16-11-2020 members of two local organizations namely Nagarik Suraksha Mancha and Mizo Convention under the banner of joint movement committee had called for a strike to protest against the permanent resettlement of Bru migrants. According to the petitioners, these protests were all throughout totally peaceful and the members and sympathizes of TPF were behaving in a most disciplined manner. The administration in order to crush the democratic peaceful protests started lodging criminal complaint against the members of the organization. Counsel for the petitioners had also argued that the investigation has also not revealed any culpability of any of the accused and the charge-sheets should also therefore be quashed.
State administration presented by the special counsel Shri Samrat Kar Bhowmik argued that petitioners do not have unlimited right to protest. Such right is hedged by legal limitations.
The Court was of the opinion that there were certain legal issues of considerable importance which require closer examination and more minute legal scrutiny. The Court pursued Section 8-B of the National Highways Act which provides for punishment for mischief by injury to National Highway and further explained that Prima facie the act of
mischief by doing anything which renders or which a person knows to be likely to render any national highway impassable or less safe for traveling or conveying property would constitute an offence under Section 8-B. The offence of mischief is defined under Section 425 of India Penal Code. As per this provision, whoever with intent to cause or knowing that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or to any person, causes the destruction of any property or any such change in any property or in situation thereof as destroys or diminishes its value or utility or affects it injuriously commits mischief.
In order to answer as to whether mere act of a bandh call and blocking of a highway would constitute the offence punishable under Section 8-B of the National Highways Act, without any element of mischief the Court believed that issues required further examination and further directed the petition to be admitted for final hearing to be notified on 6th December, 2021 before Division Bench that may be constituted by the Chief Justice on the administrative side.[Tripura People’s Front (TPF) v. State of Tripura, 2021 SCC OnLine Tri 531, order dated 11-10-2021]
Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For Petitioner(s) : Mr Manish Goswami and Ms S. Debbarma
For Respondent(s) : Mr S. Kar Bhowmik, Special P.P. and Mr Anirban Bhattacharjee