Orissa High Court: In a petition under Section 226 of the Constitution of India, filed by the Daman Pratirodha Mancha (‘association’) assailing State of Odisha’s notification dated 20-06-2006, whereby it was declared that the association was an unlawful association, the Division Bench of B.R. Sarangi* and Murahari Sri Raman, JJ. dismissed the petition and refused to interfere with the impugned notification. The Bench said that by inciting the innocent tribals and other weaker sections of the society to take to violence, affecting law and order situation against the Government, thus, the activities of the association fell within the definition of Section 15(2) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1908 (‘Amendment Act’).
Daman Pratirodha Manch is an unregistered association formed in the year 2003 with the aim and objective to sponsor the cause of the tribals, dalits, farmers, fishermen and weaker sections of the society residing in the State. The petitioner-association was aggrieved by the land reforms and hence put forth it’s grievances before the State’s Chief Minister seeking restoration of tribal lands to the tribals, which are occupied by the non-tribals and influential persons in scheduled areas; provide minimum wages to daily wage earners; stop the plundering of natural resources that is serving the interests of multinationals and monopoly big industrialists of the country; withdrawal of CRPF from the scheduled areas who have been committing atrocities on innocent tribals.
However, the State vide Home Department notification dated 20-06-2006, issued in exercise of the power conferred under Section 16 of the Amendment Act declared the association as an ‘Unlawful Association’. The impugned notification stated that the association was sub-serving the interest and objectives of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and has been indulging in the unlawful activities by means of force, violence, etc.
Analysis and Decision
The Court discussed the objective of the Amendment Act, and said that it was enacted with an objective to provide for speedy trial of certain offences and for the prohibition of associations dangerous to the public peace. The Court perused Section 15(2) of the Amendment Act, which defines ‘unlawful Association’ as an association:
(a) which encourages or aids persons to commit acts of violence or intimidation or of which the members habitually commit such acts, or
(b) which has been declared to be unlawful by the State Government under the powers thereby conferred.
The Court said that the genesis of the association was well founded in the Left Wing Extremist Movement, known as ‘Naxalite Movement’, which originated in Naxalbari area of North West Bengal in 1967, with an objective of overthrowing the existing system of governance established by the Constitution of India and the laws framed thereunder and establish a single party dictatorship in the country as the Maoist model of China through an armed movement. The Court also explained that while the underground Maoist militants of Communist Party of India (‘CPI’) (Maoist) have been carrying on terror activities in their areas of influence in parts of Southern and Northern Odisha and the over ground front/ allied organizations like the petitioner-association, created by CPI have been making best efforts to subserve the interests and objectives of the CPI by carrying on mass line activities in the pretext of championing the cause of the Adivasis. The Court said that the objective of these organizations is to create a mass support platform through which the Maoist/ Naxalite ideology can be glorified and popularized and the influence of Naxalite can be spread to areas, particularly to the urban and semi-urban areas so that the underground cadres can operate in those areas and gradually assert their hegemony.
The Court perused Section 16 of the Amendment Act which provides for the Power to declare an association unlawful, if the State Government is of the opinion that any association interferes or has for its object interference with the administration of the law or with the maintenance of law and order, or that it constitutes a danger to the public peace, the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare such association to be unlawful. The Court noted that the association was indulged in unlawful activities like, subserving, aiding and abetting the unlawful and violent activities of the militant Naxalite group CPI; incitement of tribals; circulation of leaflets urging the people to revolt against the existing system; criticism of judiciary, etc. Therefore, the Court said that the contention that the association was working within the framework of the Constitution of India and observed the democratic principles was misleading, rather it serves the aims and objective of the militant Naxalite group CPI. The Court also said that the activities of the association are akin and identical to the Naxalite movement.
The Court said that by inciting the innocent tribal and other weaker sections of the society to take to violence affecting law and order situation against the Government the activities of the petitioner-association fell within the definition of Section 15(2) of the Amendment Act.
Further, the Court stated that “every association, may it be registered or unregistered, has a right to protest against the act of the State Government within the meaning of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. But if it exceeds the limits in the name of protest, the same cannot be covered under the protective umbrella of the fundamental rights as enshrined under the Constitution”.
The Court referred to State of A.P. v. McDowell & Co., (1996) 3 SCC 709, wherein the Supreme Court held that the law made by the Central or State legislation can be struck down only on the following grounds:
(a) the legislative competence of the Legislature in question; or
(b) violation of any fundamental right; or
(c) violation of any other constitutional provision.
Thus, the Court refused to interfere with the impugned notification issued by the Government and dismissed the petition.
[Daman Pratirodha Mancha v. State of Odisha, 2023 SCC OnLine Ori 5655, Decided on 15-09-2023]
*Judgment Authored by: Justice B.R. Sarangi
*Deeksha Dabas, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.