Madras High Court

Madras High Court: In a writ petition filed by the petitioner contesting the conditions imposed by the police/respondents. The Single Judge Bench of G. Chandrasekharan, J. held that the police has to permit the petitioner to conduct an oratory competition on the 68th Birth Anniversary of Prabakaran the leader of the banned outfit Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (‘LTTE') and set aside unsuitable conditions imposed on the petitioner. The conditions that the speeches should not eulogise Prabakaran was held to be not just and appropriate.Also, the condition to conduct the programme between 10 a.m to 1.00 p.m. was held to be improper. They also held that the respondent cannot require the petitioner to video graph the entire programme and can do the same independently.

The Court noted that inPugazendhi Thangaraj v The Inspector of Police W.P.No.33057 of 2022, the Court had permitted the petitioner to conduct oratory competition with suitable conditions imposed by the police In pursuance of that order, the respondent imposed certain conditions. Of these conditions, the petitioner did not have qualms over few conditions. However, the petitioner contested the conditions that:

  • the speech shall not eulogise the banned outfit or its leaders directly or indirectly and should not be against the sovereignty of the Nation.

  • Competition time should not exceed three hours, i.e. between 10.00 a.m to 13.00 hours.

  • The petitioner should video-graph the entire programme; submitting the same to the respondents is inappropriate.

Further, the Court took note of Pugazendhi Thangaraj v. The Commissioner of Police, W.P.No.23467 of 2010, wherein the Court said that the provisions in various statutes i.e. 3 (5) of TADA or Section 10 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which on their plain language make mere membership of a banned organisation criminal, must be read down and the Courts must depart from the literal rule of interpretation in such cases, otherwise these provisions will become unconstitutional as violative of Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

The Court held that freedom of speech and expression should not be curtailed thus, the police can't direct the petitioners to give their speeches in a specific manner. The court further alluded to the Supreme Court, which dealt with Section 10 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and held that mere support to a banned organisation would not by itself become an offence. Further, the requirement for winding up the competition in three hours needs to be revised, and if the petitioners need eight hours to complete the programme, they should be given the same.

The Court also held that the respondents cannot require the petitioner to video-graph the entire programme and submit it to them. Since the police are going to cover the programme for legal scrutiny, they can video graph the event if they wish to. Thus through the judgment court set aside conditions no. 1,3 and 4.

[Pugazendhi Thangraj v. Inspector of Police in W.P No. 339 of 2023, decided on 10-01-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the Appellant: Advocate S. Doraisamy

For the Respondent: Advocate S. Santhosh

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